Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

I love it when a writer whose work you love never lets you down. Michael Robotham is one of those and with the first book in his new series, Good Girl, Bad Girl, featuring psychologist Cyrus Haven (who makes an appearance in one of the Joe McLoughlin books), he even ups the ante in terms of suspense, a cracking plot and flawed, marvellous characters you champion the entire way.

When a very troubled young woman, whose given the name Evie Cormac, applies to court to be released from the children’s home she’s been held in for the last six years after being discovered in a secret room in a house where a brutal murder happened, Cyrus is called in to assess her. Equal parts fascinated and wary of Evie who, it appears, possesses the uncanny ability to tell when a person is lying, Cyrus also knows he has to unlock her past in order to help her secure a future. But Evie, while tolerant of Cyrus, is not ready to talk about who she is or what she endured. Resilient yet vulnerable, damaged and damaging, clever and filled with self-loathing and yet a desire to be “normal”, Evie is not like anyone Cyrus (who has his own demons and tragic past) has met before.

When a case Cyrus is working on and Evie’s present collide, danger for both of them rears its head, placing both their lives on the line. Cyrus and Evie must not only rely on all their innate and learned skills to survive, but more importantly each other. Thing is, can these two wary souls let down their defences long enough?

Fast-paced, enthralling and at times, very suspenseful, and always clever, this is a great read. While at first I was disappointed it didn’t feature the beloved Joe, Cyrus is an engrossing character and, in Evie, I think Robotham has struck creative gold. While this novel resolves itself in one sense, in another, where both Cyrus and Evie are concerned, it raises far more questions than it answers setting the framework for an exciting new series. I for one cannot wait to see where Robotham takes these characters and thus, his readers.

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The Moor by L.J. Ross

I am so enjoying this series by L.J. Ross, featuring the dashing and dishy DCI Ryan (reminiscent of Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley), his historian wife, sergeant Phillips and his partner, DI, Denise and their attempts to bring crime in Northumberland under control. It’s light, easy reading but without sacrificing good writing or steady plotting. Add to that the burgeoning attraction between Constables Lowerson and Yates and in this novel, a cold case which brings a circus and a young, cheeky waif into the gang’s sphere, and the stage – or Big Top – is set.

When 10-year-old Samantha O’Neill turns up on DCI Ryan’s doorstep one Sunday afternoon, claiming she’s had a returned memory of her mother being murdered, Ryan and his people take her very, very seriously. When they find a cold case and an unidentified body matching the description Samantha has given them, they pull out all stops to help the child they’re fast developing great affection for. But someone else is aware that Sam’s repressed memory has returned and though she’s being kept in a safe house, they’re searching for her, intending that her memories of that fateful afternoon will never completely return.

In many ways, this book (number 11 in the series) while a terrific addition to a fabulous series, felt like it’s main purpose was to introduce a new character to the regular cast and a potentially darker plotline that brings danger close to home – not that there’s anything wrong with that! Both were very well done and, certainly, the new character promises to be equal parts enchanting and frustrating while the other, more sinister storyline is sure to set hearts racing. My only concern there is why did have to be THAT character – especially when so much has already happened and the circumstances that made the threat a reality were brought about because of a rash (stupid) decision.

Still, I look forward to seeing where these storylines go and where Ryan and co will head next as well. I have grown very, very fond of these characters and this wonderful series.

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Dead Memories Kim Stone #10 by Angela Marsons

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At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this latest book in a marvellous series. Dead Memories starts with the discovery of two teenagers chained to a radiator in a block of flats, one of whom dies. 

Regular readers of the series and those closest to Di Kim Stone know this is a recreation of a scene from her own traumatic childhood. Unwilling to believe someone is out to destroy her psychologically by making her relive past pain and unearth repressed memories, Kim initially refuses to counter this crime is about her. But when more murders that uncannily echo other scenes from her terrible upbringing occur, Kim is forced to acknowledge that someone is not only out to get her, but break her in the cruelest possible way. The question then becomes can she and her team discover who that might be before they succeed? 

I love this series. Stone is a canny, tough cop who is also smart and rarely makes a wrong move. The writing is tight and the plots generally plausible. When I first began reading this installment, however, I found it hard to suspend my disbelief based on previous knowledge of the main character. Why would Stone be so vehement in denying what everyone around her knew to be fact: that this was a copycat crime designed to inflict deep psychological pain on her? I found her denial, her refusal to include members of her trusted team, who’ve done nothing but blindly and loyally follow her, frustrating to say the least. Fortunately, at some point in the novel, some of the more far-fetched elements (eg. interviewing anyone who might ‘hate’ her – it was very “high school” but I am not sure how else it could have been achieved) and Stone’s stubbornness receded into a good, solid procedural with well drawn characters and a believable finale.

I also enjoyed reading Marson’s author notes and her explanation for writing this particular novel. 
Already looking forward to the next installment. 

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The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

The second Cormac Reilly book by Dervla McTiernan, The Scholar, is a gripping read, a genuine page-turner that had me staying up into the wee hours because I simply had to finish it. 

Cormac and his scientist girlfriend, Dr Emma, have now moved to Galway where Cormac has been assigned cold cases and given the cold shoulder by his new bosses while Emma takes up a prestigious job in a pharmaceutical research company attached to the local university. When a young woman is found brutally murdered on campus grounds, and Emma is the one to discover the body, it sets in motion a chain of events that have devastating consequences, not just for the victim’s friends and family, but for Cormac and Emma as well.

McTiernan has done a marvellous job of expanding upon the primary characters she established in her debut novel, The Ruin, and introducing some new ones as well. She also uses police politics and procedures to give the reader insight into how various characters cope with not only the mundanity of the everyday, but the impact this, and the trauma of police work, can have upon families, individuals as well as the toxicity of certain personalities and their motivations in the workplace. DS Cormac Reilly is a terrific character and his relationship with Emma is still finding its feet as she deals with the fallout of the past and he has to overcome his urge to protect her. It feels real as do the various issues they have that any busy professionals with psychologically and physically demanding jobs as well as emotional baggage could face. 

Not only does McTiernan create relatable characters you invest in (or even dislike intensely even while understanding why they might behave a particular way), but the plot is also given careful treatment. It is tight, totally believable and intense. I had to know how this book resolved itself and couldn’t sleep until I did – and then it kept turning over and over in my head.

A fantastic follow-up to what’s already proving to be a sensational series. Cannot wait for the nest installment. 

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The Immune Omnibus by David Kazzie


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Unraveling: The Immune Part One.

I love eschatological narratives – you know, end of the world doomsday books. Films too. I don’t know what it is about them but maybe it’s the guilty pleasure and frisson that a good book or film can provide as the reader/viewer remains safe while the world they know unravels in print or on celluloid. Stephen King had a theory that this was why people love horror books and movie – that they’re revivifying; remind them of life by representing death. Whatever the reason, I enjoy this genre and Unraveling, the first book in the four part The Immune Omnibus is a really good, solid addition to the genre.

The premise is the unleashing of a highly virulent disease by a mysterious group that wipes out the majority of the world’s population. Like many books in this oeuvre, the author chooses to focus on select but diverse individuals who, for some reason, are immune to what can only be described as a plague. The reader thus experiences the catastrophic consequences of this on their personal and professional lives, as society as they know it collapses and all they have loved and worked for and towards quite literally dies. 

Well written with strong characters replete with flaws, this is a good start to what promises to be a tight series. Already started the next one. 

Void: The Immune Series, Volume 2

Void The Immune Part Two
The second book in The Immune Omnibus, Void, is a fabulous sequel to the first book, Unraveling. Starting where it left off, Void follows the adventures of the survivors from the first book, namely the obstetrician, Adam, former footballer, Freddie, and soldier Sarah among others as they unite and trek across the USA, in search of Adam’s daughter, Rachel as well as answering the call of the CDC who, before the world went to hell in a hand basket, asked for anyone immune from what’s now known as the Medusa virus to come forward.

As they travel, they meet others who have also lost everything. Joining together, the group learn not only how to survive and forage (including empty houses and abandoned businesses and vehicles) but about each other. Worst of all, they learn just how fragile the veneer of civilization is; how when there is no-one to enforce laws and common decency, there are those who will take advantage of the situation, regardless of the consequences.

While the book is about a world in chaos, it’s also very much about the humanity or lack thereof of those now populating the planet and how survival isn’t just about nourishing the body, but also the heart and mind.

Some good twists in the book and believable character development as well as fine writing made this reader buy the next book as soon as the last page of this one was finished. 

EverGreen. The Immune Part Three

Evergreen: The Immune Series, Volume 3

In this novel, Evergreen, our survivors of the Medusa virus, after another tragedy that shakes them to the core, settle in what appears to be a Utopia, the experimental township of Evergreen, a place that runs on solar energy and is fundamentally self-sufficient. Though ravaged by the virus, the remaining citizens welcome the travellers and it seems that Adam, Sarah, Freddie and Max have found a place to call home. But one person’s paradise is another’s hell and while some of the characters determine to grasp what happiness they can, there are those determined to destroy it, regardless of the cost or who they hurt in the process.

I thought the pace might slow in this book with the primary characters finding a safe haven, but nothing could be further from the truth. Kazzie uses the static location as an excuse to explore the leads’ inner demons as well as expand the search for Adam’s daughter, Rachel. So we have on the one hand the physical difficulties of trying to start afresh while everything lost is still so raw, but more importantly, the psychological tensions the juxtaposition between the old world and those this new, stark and dangerous one create. How can anyone “move on” when the world as they know it has stopped?

A page-turner that had me buying the next one immediately.

Citadel: The Immune Part Four

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The final instalment in this post-apocalyptic series is a doozy. The tensions and various narrative threads started in the other books not only come together but explode with shocking consequences. Just when you thought our intrepid and flawed characters had endured enough, Kazzie inflicts more pain on them and demands they rise to the occasion and show their resilience and instinct for survival.

I don’t want to say too much more except that in every way this was a fitting end to the series and even if it doesn’t answer all the questions it raises, I think this is appropriate as well.

Well-written, fast-paced and action-packed, it was a great read.

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