Guilty Not Guilty, Felix Francis
Genre: General Fiction ( Adult), Mystery and Thrillers.
I used to ( still do ) love Felix’ dad, Dick’s, novels. Being a horse mad child that grew into a horse mad adult, with a love of reading his books have kept me entertained for many happy hours.
Felix writes in a similar style, believable characters, a story that feels genuine, where you could place yourself in that setting and see it happening in real life. And of course there’s always the mystery of who the culprit really is. Its not a copycat of his dads style though, Felix has his own spin, his own way of writing and I find it very easy to follow, perfect for me.
I like to be puzzled as I read the story, but not so confused that I switch off. Felix lays out clues for the reader to pick up – some I got and some I missed. His books are set with a racing background but less intensely horse orientated, so this book we meet Bill as he is acting as a Steward at the races, having been a former jockey, but apart from a couple of race meets and his background in stewarding that’s the entirety of the horse content.
I felt so sorry for Bill, his wife has died and yet he can’t grieve properly because the police are convinced he killed her. With his family background its quickly become quite a high profile murder, and I guess there’s pressure on the police to find the killer. Bill has been neatly served up as culprit by his brother in law, once a friend but for the past few years he’s been viciously cruel to Bill and Amanda, his wife, causing her intense distress with his vile innuendo and threats. He’s now playing the part of devoted distraught brother, which makes Bill suspicious of him.
Bill is vilified in the press, made out to be guilty by them, and his former friends and neighbours almost all believe it. Only a handful of friends and family stand by him, one of them advising that the best way to clear his name is to set about proving an unquestionable alibi. Bill is rightly worried the police aren’t going to look further, as the way his brother in law has placed it he does look guilty, although of course there’s no real evidence, only suspicion and possibilities.
Its a raging paced read, racing from one drama to another, and I so felt for poor Bill. Once more fiction shows up the worst of the press, they do behave in this revolting way, dragging out any and all possible salacious details, spinning possibilities as fact, caring nothing for someones grief and sensibilities in their quest to be first with new details. The poor guy is mired in their web, damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. Advice is say nothing, but how hard when you know they are spouting total rubbish..
I loved this read, know I’ll re-read it, and there’s a twist at the end that completely caught me out. I Did Not See That Coming!
Stars: Five, a cracking paced read, full of wonderful fiction that felt incredibly real.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Perfect Wife, JP Delaney
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
This was outside my usual comfort zone, but so intriguing. I found it scarily disturbing, the way IT is growing in leaps and bounds its not quite outside the realms of possibility at some future date. Well, the IT side anyway, though the physical reality of creating something so lifelike isn’t so close, intelligent IT is, with developers and programmers getting ever closer to machines that can think ahead of simple programming and learn responses.
The thriller side of it too, is Tim the adoring husband he appears to be, recreating his much loved wife, or are the things Abbie uncovers signals that perhaps theirs wasn’t the wonderful marriage everyone seems to think they had. And how did she actually die? Is Tim not telling her to save her the trauma as he says ,or was there more to the story.
I love this kind of thriller where there’s lots to work out, where each side of the story seemed plausible. What I didn’t like though was that neither Tim not Abbie were particularly likable people. It was interesting reading about Danny and the therapies they tried, but other than to perhaps add a side of kindness to Abbie and provide a vehicle for the events at the end I’m not really sure why it was such a strong part of the novel. It did feel very real, I enjoyed seeing Danny and the issues he faced. Given the authors knowledge of this disability, I feel the problems and various therapies promoted were close to what happens in the real world. What works for some doesn’t for others and its finding the one that makes each person more comfortable with the world around them that is so difficult. I do believe strongly in the ethic that disabilities are not something to be “cured”, that its not a case of making people more “normal” but one of helping them fit in, be comfortable and cope with the world around them.
The ending puzzled me. I’ve gone back and reread it but TBH I’m still not really sure what happened, and that’s why I’ve dropped a star. Its a book I really enjoyed but not one I’d read again.
Stars: Four, An interesting read but ultimately a very disquieting book when thinking of the way technology is advancing, a route I hope it never goes.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Bloody Creek Murder, A Winston Radhauser Mystery 6, Susan Clayton-Goldner
General Fiction (Adult), Mystery and thrillers.
Well, by now Radhauser is feeling a bit like an old friend. I know if ever I had need of the police I want someone like him on the case. He’s moral, dedicated but not one of those folk who want to find someone to blame, anyone will do, for him it needs to be the right person.
This book shows too well the pressures the police often face by the media to find a culprit, but like Radhauser I feel finding the actual person who did the crime is important, not just someone to keep the police looking good in the eyes of the media. In this day though, when appearance is all, when money, elections, voting and popularity are so important its simple to be sucked in and take the easy route, not necessarily the correct route.
Once more Susan delivers a well written and complex story, with multiple possible culprits, and side plots that at first seem diverse but which slowly link up. I’m hooked as ever trying to work out whodunnit…and even with the benefit of knowing more than Radhauser what went on, it still took me some time before I could finally piece all the parts together.
Its not as simple though as finding the murderer, but finding the motive too, and of course that brings in so much of the past, of hard times for the people concerned, that my emotions for them were all over the place.
I like this kind of mystery, where we look at why as well as how, at what makes people do things, why they act that way. I want to get to know the characters, their feelings, what drives them, and here they were so well drawn I could visually picture them, really got a sense of who they were.
The secondary plot too, involving one of Radhauser’s cold cases, was incredibly moving, and the epilogue for that was great to read. I’d like to think that if this happened, and I’m sure it does, that it would end like this. Hard for all concerned to do the right thing.
Stars: Five, another cracking story that had me gripped. I think you’ll get more if you’ve read earlier Radhauser novels but having said that, this could easily be read as a stand alone book.
ARC supplied by author
Woman Who Spoke to Spirits, Alys Clare
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
I love this kind of historical read, one where I feel I’m part of the setting, can taste the atmosphere, really feel as if I’m there in past times with the characters. It proved t be a light and enjoyable read. This is first in a new series, I’ve read a couple by Alys and enjoyed those, so was confident I’d like this one.
First books in a series have a hard ask, delivering characters, new settings along with an interesting story, and this book did that really well.
I’m intrigued by Lily’s past, we get hints of some awful trauma but I guess that’s going to come out more in further books. Likewise her new hire, Felix, has his own somewhat mysterious past. We know some of it, but there seems much more to him that just a down at heel former rich kid. He has so much experience of different things, and I’m keen to know how and where and when he learned all this. He seemed so much older than his actual years.
He and Lily make a good pair, work well together and even though in those times its odd to have a female boss, he makes it work, being deferential without seeming obsequious, and yet standing up when its needed. I feel maybe in further books something might develop between them but there’s little here except respect and a possible growing attraction. I want to know more about the guy in the houseboat – forgotten his name, but though he and Lily have only met a handful of times they have something special maybe? Or perhaps I’m reading things that aren’t there 😉
The mystery this is based around is actually two stories, there’s the one about the actress, the stage and young Julian, and then the primary one of Albertina and the evil she senses is out for her. That had me completely puzzled, I simply couldn’t work it out, though of course after its over I could see the clues Alys had cleverly weaved through. An original tale, not one I’ve come across before.
Stars: Four, a fun read and a great intro to the series.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Persistent Intruder, Kay Brooks
I saw the romance tag, didn’t realise it was also suspense, but that’s fine, I like romantic suspense for an occasional read. I enjoyed this story, though I felt the actual romance side wasn’t particularly strong.
Brian, well, when we first meet him and learn of his plans for a child I thought he was pretty cold, didn’t really like him. I know he’s had a problematic past with women but even so, he seemed so clinical about the whole thing.
Its back to my personal feelings about how children show be welcomed to be loved, not to be an accessory or simply an heir for someones genes, and I got the impression that heir was what Brian really wanted, not a child to love.
Still, there’s a quick burst of passion between him and Natalie, and of course the pregnancy that results. There isn’t a relationship though, will Brian just want the child and not her, if she tells him she’s pregnant? He has the money to do what he wants. Can she take that risk?
Then of course there’s that passion that they both thought would be easy to leave behind after the weekend, but feelings aren’t that easy, don’t fall in with our plans do they?
Of course that’s all complicated by the deranged stalker Brian has, and that suspense angle was excellent in the main, even though I did feel actions from all of them stretched credulity at times.
It was a fun read, interesting but I felt the romance side wasn’t as well worked as the suspense. For me I prefer the romance to be the stronger part of the story and I wasn’t totally convinced in Brian and Natalie.
Stars: Four, an easy read, but I would have liked more emphasis on relationship building, the romance side, to balance the very cold Brian we first met. I wasn’t convinced he could change that easily.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
Not Here, (Dina Ostica Novel 1), Genevieve Nocovo
Genre: suspense and thriller
This is one of those stories I thought I’d like, but which I found a struggle to connect with.
I didn’t really understand Dina, didn’t understand how she was hoping to make money from her podcasts, and in fact what she was using to support herself. Its far harder to make money online than posting the odd video….it takes a huge amount of work unless you get very lucky. Maybe I missed something? Dunno, but though I liked her, admired her ideals I just couldn’t really get along with the story.
At first I was fine and was eager to continue, but I quickly became lost with it all. That could be me of course, others seem to have had no problems, but I’m not really a thriller/suspense reader, choosing to dip into the genre only occasionally. This time I made a bad choice, its a good story just not the right one for me.
Stars: Two and a half.
Arc via author
Lake of the Dead, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 5), Susan Clayton-Goldner
Genre:Mystery and Thrillers, General Fiction.
I love this series. I started with book two, offered the chance to review by the author and she’s been kind enough to let me review each succeeding novel.
You can read each story as a stand alone but you’ll get much more by reading in order, as there are people connecting each book, and its interesting and adds more if you know the back story. Parker’s girlfriend Rishima was in the last book, only as a very secondary character, but it brings the stories closer knowing just what she’s been through, and continues to face. I really felt so sad for her, a wonderful character.
As usual Radhauser is immersed in a complicated murder, with multiple possible suspects but no real motive. It makes me wonder how police even begin to search out who was responsible, and following this story, seeing Radhauser’s reasoning for doing things, the constraints that stop him doing other things, was really interesting and absorbing.
As always the characters here feel so real, so genuine. I think I could find ones like them easily within my own life, though hopefully not murderous ones! I love the way Susan makes what seems reasonable at first sight untangle to become something else, and then puts in reasons and bars to what seem like real motives and possible actions to the murder.
And once more she caught me out. I had an early dislike of a character but thought I was judging unfairly, and it wasn’t til very near the end that I began to see how and why things happened.
Its a sad story, one sadly that could be real, murders happen to so many folk, cut off before they’ve had a chance to grow, to become adults, have their own family. There were some really tragic backstories here too, ones that I had no trouble believing in.
I love Radhauser as a cop, he’s exactly they guy we all need, thorough, principles, meticulous and yet I’d hate to be married to him, to have him as a parent. He adores his family but work – when taking time off and going home could mean a killer escaping, possibly to kill again, how can he? We see here him spending so much time on work, that he barely has time with his family. Grace is incredibly understanding, though we have seen how his work causes friction at times. Its understandable, she’s got two young kids and is still recovering from her cancer treatment and surgery.
I guess she’s seen how he is when they first met, and it would be hard to say come home, knowing the possible consequences and also how it would affect him. You take the person as they are when you choose a partner, and Radhauser is very committed to his work. It doesn’t mean he loves his family any less.
Stars: Five. Its another great story from Susan, well plotted and gripping reading, which wraps up properly. I hate novels that make me thing “but what about….” when they end. This doesn’t, we get a brief six month on peek into what’s happened with some of the key characters and that’s just perfect for me.
ARC supplied by author
Dissolution, C. J. Sansom
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery and thrillers
I love this period in history, so much change going on in politics, state and religion. I’ve read many. many books, and the ones I love best are always like this, ones that make me feel I’m there, among the events, not just a reader but actually in the thick of what’s happening.
I’ve read most of the Shardlake series over the years, but in print form. They are among those I’d read over and over, but sadly all my print books had to go a few years back ( around 2k of them) as eye issues meant I couldn’t read them. Thank heavens for Kindle with its changing font size and background lighting.
So seeing this offered for review reminded me of how much I loved this series. Matthew Shardlake is a great lead character, he’s a very moral person, strongly in favour of reform but somehow naïve considering his profession.
He’s sent down to Scarnsea where the Commissioner investigating the monastery there has been murdered.
Its winter, the journey is hard, the welcome by the monks edges on suspicion. After all they knew the murdered man had come looking for excuses to shut them down but murder? Everyone is on edge, everyone seems to hold secrets, have possible motives and its Matthews job to tease them out and find the truth.
He’s accompanied by Mark Poer, a young man who’s been under his wing so to speak, working in Augmentations. Mark doesn’t like what he’s seen, and Matthew thinks he’s exaggerating, maybe its the hard work, the hours or something, or of course the fact his dalliance with a lady way above him was caught, he can’t believe Marks is right in what he sees happening. He’s promised Mark’s father to set him on the road to a good career, and he’s determined to do his best for Mark, not what he wants necessarily, but what he needs. That sounds harsh but its how life was then, a scrabble to survive and Matthew knows Mark could well end up one of the poor they see so often, in rags, no home, depending on charity for the few scraps of food that keep them alive.
The mystery surrounding the killer is difficult and tangled, no-one seems to have a motive, but several of the inhabitants of the monastery have the opportunity. Commissioner Singleton had been going to meet a monk, though no-one knows who, but the abbot and the monks are keen to believe it must have been an intruder that killed him. The more Matthew learns about the events surrounding the murder the wider the circle seems to get, and then things become even more dangerous.
I love that there are so many suspects, I’ve just decided on one as the culprit along with Matthew, when something happens to throw doubt on them, and this happens over and over.
There are so many secrets, so much going on here in this time of change for everyone. No-one feels safe, no-one actually is safe. Even stray words at the wrong time are enough to condemn someone so everyone is very guarded and that doesn’t help the investigation.
Poor Matthew gets his eyes really opened here by events surrounding Cromwell, a man he fervently believes in and admires. He learns his idol has feet of clay and is shocked, really shocked that he could be so casually callous about certain recent events. The force of what’s going on though has become uncontrollable, and Matthew isn’t in a position to do anything about it. I really feel for him, a good man in a position that puts him front and centre of the change he wanted but which isn’t having the results those like him intended. .
It was easy to feel as if I was back in the 1500’s with Matthew. Often its the little details, the snippets of real history, the day to day events, the food and clothes, the poverty, all those make a book feel very real. CJ Sansom has a real talent for those, for bringing the reader into the story by making the setting so vividly real. For throwing out little clues that send the reader on false tracks, often along with Matthew, for keeping the events wide open to very near the end, and keeping reader guessing who is behind things, and why of course. Rarely does murder happen without motive.
Stars: Five, a solidly written mystery/suspense that I enjoyed reading once more and I think its time for a reread of all of the novels.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Crisis, Felix Francis
Genre:, General Fiction (Adult)
Like many young girls I was a horse obsessed kid, but where other dropped off in their teens I kept on, much to the surprise and probably dismay of my very non horsey family. Kids intervened for a while, and I got my horse fix by reading Dick Francis novels until I was able to finally get my own horse….
I still love to read, though my tastes have changed and broadened considerably. I’d read pretty much all the Dick Francis novels when he died, and a few by other former jockeys, but for me they didn’t have the DF magic. I had a read a couple of the collaboration novels but TBH I didn’t think of Felix as being the writer, I assumed he was more the researcher…then I saw this on Netgalley and thought “why not”.
Well, Felix, I did you a grave disservice, reading this was like the old Francis magic, a gripping tale wrapped up and tangled in numerous little side issues, with some wonderful characters. I am so sorry I didn’t recognise that earlier.
Of course in suspense novels, in PI investigations and the like there has to be a little artistic licence, and I suspect that Harry’s crack “researchers” wouldn’t have been able to pull out all that info…but it makes for a fun and interesting story.
I really enjoyed reading this, was engrossed in trying to work out who-dunn-it so to speak, and was way off course as usual. There’s a reason I can’t write, and especially not anything involving mystery, my brain just isn’t wired that way. Thankfully others are 😉
I loved the characters we meet here, poor Harry, barely knowing one end of a horse from another, up against a family dynasty in horse racing.
I enjoyed the snippets of racing info, enough to keep the reader interested in the story but not so much we switch off.
Harry’s specially is in sorting things out, minimising crises and sorting out wheat from chaff, and here the poor guy has a lot of chaff to sort through. It seems every turn, every hour almost at some points, bring in new people, new potential motives, and new events.
I did feel the falling in love bit felt a little out of character for Harry, he seemed the cautious type, rather than an all in from the off sort, but one of the things I missed in the DF novels was an element of romance. As a reader I tend to focus on romance plus …. those novels, those where the romance is backed by a good story, or the other way round, a good story with a romantic element. It just seems to make the story feel more real to me rather than just words on a page, so I was pleased Felix includes romance.
I’ll certainly look out for more from him, and as with the DF books, his will become ones I re-read, even knowing how the story ends because the content is well worth another read.
Stars: Five, a perfect escapist read, with both drama and romance, and a cracking mystery.
ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers
Hunting Danger, Redemption Harbor Series, Katie Reus
I’d only read book three in this series, each are advertised as stand alone and that one I loved, didn’t feel I’d missed anything by not reading first two books.
I haven’t read book four but when I saw this I expected to feel the same as I did with book three, that it would be complete on its own. It is….and yet I think I’d have got far more from it if I understood more about the whole group of characters, their dynamics and interaction. As it was, apart from Brooks and Darcy they were just names and I didn’t feel the connection between the characters that I know would be there.
Its billed as romance, and it is but for me the romance fell second place to the suspense. Its a tightly written novel, well paced, well set out, but the romance side takes a while to warm up – its very much each likes the other but hides it, and seems as though that’s been going on a long time. Now they’re thrown together, in danger, and emotions run hot at a time like this. Its a question of what happens once that cools down, when they’re thinking with clear heads once more.
Its an interesting story but I felt a bit disconnected from it, as I said I think even though its a stand alone it would work better if I’d read all of the others.
I do occasionally get tired of the “quick computer hack” that takes care of everything, tells where folk are, what they’re doing, spies on them remotely – even when there hasn’t been time to set up cameras…and of course knocks out those cameras who see what we don’t want them to.
Its not just in this book, but a growing trend in many suspense reads. PCs can do lots, are a huge asset but they are machines, not miracle cures and I felt here that it was something a little over-used.
Stars: Three, a good read but would have been a great one if perhaps I’d read all the earlier books.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers