Enmity (DI Munro and DS West #3) by Pete Brassett

Another easy read featuring Scottish curmudgeon (with a heart and ethics) DI Munro and his forever hungry side-kick and pseudo-daughter (or that’s how it seems) DS West. Enmity, book number 3 in the series, sees DI Munro travelling with DS West to Ayr to solve the murder of a former colleague’s daughter. When more bodies turn up and it appears that someone innocent is being framed, all Munro and West’s skills and that of the team at their disposal are required. But when one of the team doesn’t want to co-operate and, worse, falls under suspicion, it seems the murderer is closer to home than anyone thought.

These books are great when you want to read a crime book that isn’t too complex, contains central characters who are likeable and clearly drawn (if somewhat stereotypical) and a setting you enjoy. Clichéd at times, with a tendency to include “Scottish” words randomly, much can be forgiven for the effortlessness of the read – even when you guess, “whodunit” part of the pleasure is discovering how the author concludes the case.

A good series.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

When the reclusive, elderly and utterly glamorous Hollywood screen idol of last century, Evelyn Hugo, invites an obscure journalist, Monique Grant, to write an exclusive story about her for a magazine, little does Grant – or her employer – know what she’s agreed to do. A fading star who captivated audiences and the public with her films and the gossipy stories of her many husbands, affairs, the terrible losses and magnificent successes she survived, Hugo is still an enigma to many. The chance to put the record straight once and for all is, for Monique, too good to be true.

Struggling with personal issues, Monique nonetheless is flattered and seizes the opportunity being given to her, only, as the days go by and Hugo’s incredible tale unfolds, she also wonders why, of all those who could have written this story, she has been chosen. What possible reason could this powerful, intelligent woman, with fox-cunning and an unapologetic knack of always getting what she wants, have for choosing her?

Taking Monique and thus the reader back to her childhood in Hell’s Kitchen in New York, Hugo’s story is breath-taking in its audacity, courage and chutzpah. Beautiful, mildly talented, but knowing how to use the gifts she’s been given to forge ahead, and not caring what others think, Hugo’s tale is as much about female subordination, patriarchy, the Hollywood star-system, sex, sexuality, beauty, ageing, power and its abuses, as it is about a woman learning to navigate a life for herself and those she loves through this.

Taking heed of Hugo’s story, Monique finds herself alternately touched and inspired, inspired to use the lessons Hugo’s imparting to improve her own life. But when she learns the truth behind the story, about why she was chosen to write it, it threatens to unravel not only what she thought she knew about the actress, but about herself as well.

This is an easy, terrific read that takes you back in time on one woman’s remarkable and not always easy to stomach journey. The hurdles and prejudices she overcomes, the way in which men particularly underestimate her and others, the choices she bravely makes, and the hard decisions she stands by are compelling reading. Not always easy to like, it is easy to fall in love with Evelyn Hugo – the hard, wise, and always compassionate woman – even when at her hardest and most selfish. Terrible things were written and thought about the beautiful starlet, but none were as bad, raw or honest as what she wants Monique to write now.

Question is, can Monique do the woman justice? Especially once the truth is revealed…

Great escapist read.

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Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner is a marvellous, beautifully written novel that while it sits under the crime genre, is so much more than that.

When Cambridge University post-graduate student, Edith Hind – a privileged young lady whose parents not only have royal connections but friends in high political places –  goes missing, DS Manon Bradshaw, a self-described misanthrope is put on the case. A shade this side of 40, Manon seems to be the only one not too perturbed by the high-profile nature of the case – not even when every possible suspect has a water-tight alibi – Manon has more things than death and kidnapping on her mind. Yet, there is blood at the scene of Edith’s disappearance, suspicious circumstances and behaviours leading up to the event but, there’s no ransom note or any other clue as to where in the hell Edith is.

With the media breathing down their throats, time ticking and budget limitations, never mind stressed parents on their backs, the police are hard-pressed to know what to do. Every angle appears to lead to a dead-end or uncovers an element that bears no relevance to Edith’s disappearance.

In the meantime, Manon does her job and gets on with her rather miserable life. Stuck in the predictable rut of internet dating, she uses sex as a panacea for loneliness and just exacerbates her condition. With good friends and a reliable partner, however, it’s not all bad, especially not when a young street kid comes into her life.

However, there is the over-arching case and associated pressures of solving Edith’s disappearance and when more death follows, Manon begins to understand that they’ve all been looking in the wrong places and at the wrong people.

Superbly written with shifting points of view, allowing you to access other characters in the story in ways that are unusual to this genre, this story is an absolute cracker of a read. Insightful, deep characters with moving and logical interactions all set to a wonderful pace, this is a story you can get your teeth into. You see the crime from multiple perspectives, get to know all the police involved in the action and the people who are affected by what has occurred. You care deeply what happens and no more so than to Manon.

Filled with surprises and ah ha moments, more because of the rich street-philosophy and observations about people and life than anything, this was a joy to read. I didn’t want it to end. Cannot recommend highly enough for lovers of crime but also literary, well-written books with great plots and characters. Cannot wait to fall into another Susie Steiner.

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The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

Can this guy write a bad book? If The Wrong Side of Goodbye is anything to assess the others by (and it is) the answer is a categorical and resounding “NO!” Frankly, this crime series is one of the most consistently terrific I have read, and over so many instalments.  Just when you think Harry Bosch, can go no further, do no more, fail to surprise you, Connelly takes your expectations and dashes them. He takes Bosch and thus the reader to the most unexpected heights and thrilling of places – emotionally, physically (even for an ageing cop) and psychologically, but without once asking you to suspend your disbelief.

imgres-2Working in a part-time position for the San Fernando PD, Harry, who also has a Private Investigator ticket, is asked by an ageing, wealthy tycoon to find out if he has an heir from a love affair he had many years ago. With no family to leave his billions, the reclusive old man hopes to leave his estate to family as opposed to the board of directors currently in line to inherit. Harry is to work only with this man and reveal anything he discovers only to him.

Unable to refuse a cold case that may as well have come out of a freezer (and a decent pay cheque), Harry accepts, and it’s not long before he discovers a connection to the man during the VietNam war. Before he can pass on the information, the billionaire dies. When the circumstances of his death turn out to be suspicious and Harry is warned off pursuing the notion of an heir further, Harry does what he does best: refuses to be bullied or threatened.

When Harry asks his half-brother, the Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller, to help him, the ante is upped and the danger grows – not just to Harry, but to those he cares about deeply.

In the meantime, the hunt for a serial rapist tightens and when a colleague’s life is put on the line, Harry stops at nothing to save her, his reputation and bring criminals to justice.

I really don’t want to say too much more about this book except Connelly is so on the money in terms of plot, character and the depth of history and, dare I say, nostalgia for a young Harry and his pre-police life (and that beckoning him from the shadows of retirement) this book evokes. It’s not simply about the cases Harry investigates, but about the relationships he forges and the bonds he forms, professionally and personally. I love the way Harry’s character is so consistent across the novels – the way he grows, or refuses to change and how he simply will not compromise his ethics.

This is a wonderful addition to the Bosch canon. I just wish they weren’t so readable so I could put them down, if just to savour the stories and make them last that bit longer.

As it is, I can’t wait for the next one.

 

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The Black House by Peter May

11713120The Black House, the first book in the Lewis Trilogy by Peter May is simply sensational. Set on one of the northernmost islands in the Outer Hebrides, it tells the tale of Fin McLeod, a Lewis native who has been living in Edinburgh for the past 18 years. A Detective Inspector, Fin is sent to Lewis to investigate the murder of a man who, it turns out, went to school with Fin and was generally regarded as no-good thug. While Fin’s knowledge of Gaelic was considered when sending him north, it doesn’t endear him to the man in charge of the case nor to some of those he once called friends. 18 years is a long time between drinks and Fin left Lewis the way he has returned, with secrets in his heart and ghosts to lay to rest. But when one of the ghosts returns to haunt and harass him, Fin finds it not just those keeping his secret he has to protect, he has to watch his own back as well.

Beautifully told and masterfully plotted, this is poetic and character-driven writing at its best. May places you right there in wind-swept, ruggedly beautiful Lewis, amidst the machair and under the grey skies pierced by sunlight. Segueing between first and third person, past and present, Fin’s personal story from child to adult and that of the current investigation begin to intersect and become clear, all of which builds to an utterly breath-taking and simply stunning climax.

I put this one down so reluctantly and quickly picked up the next book in the series. I am so happy I discovered May because he has so many books to his name, and now I have a new author in whose work I can lose myself.

A sublime read.

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