Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!!! The Bloodless Boy by Robert J Lloyd

Image Description: The cover of The Bloodless Boy features a section from a map of seventeenth-century London, with a seal in the centre.

The City of London, 1678. New Year’s Day. Twelve years have passed since the Great Fire ripped through the City. Eighteen since the fall of Oliver Cromwell’s Republic and the restoration of a King. London is gripped by hysteria, where rumors of Catholic plots and sinister foreign assassins abound.

The body of a young boy, drained of his blood and with a sequence of numbers inscribed on his skin, is discovered on the snowy bank of the Fleet River.

Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, the powerful Justice of Peace for Westminster, is certain of Catholic guilt in the crime. He enlists Robert Hooke, the Curator of Experiments of the Royal Society, and his assistant, Harry Hunt, to help his enquiry. Demanding discretion from them, he also entrusts to them to preserve the body, which they store inside Hooke’s Air-pump. Sir Edmund confides to Hooke that the bloodless boy is not the first to have been discovered. He also presents Hooke with a cipher that was left on the body.

That same morning Henry Oldenburg, the Secretary of the Royal Society, blows his brains out. A disgraced Earl is released from the Tower of London, bent on revenge against the King, Charles II.

Wary of the political hornet’s nest they are walking into – and using evidence rather than paranoia in their pursuit of truth – Hooke and Hunt must discover why the boy was murdered, and why his blood was taken. Moreover, what does the cipher mean?

Harry, wanting to prove himself as a natural philosopher and to break free from the shadow of Hooke’s brilliance, takes the lead in investigating the death of the boy. He is pulled into the darkest corners of Restoration London, where the Court and the underworld seem to merge.

Harry has to face the terrible consequences of experiments done in the name of Science, but also reckon with a sinister tale with its roots in the traumas of the Civil Wars.

Set in seventeenth-century London, The Bloodless Boy introduces readers to Harry Hunt, Observator of the Royal Society and protégé of Robert Hooke, the society’s renowned Curator of Experiments. Called to the banks of the Fleet on a snowy winter’s morning, Hunt and Hooke are charged with the investigation and preservation of the body of a young boy, drained of blood and, apparently, transported to the river’s bank without the perpetrator leaving a trace of their passing.

The discovery of the bloodless boy provides Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, Justice of the Peace, with a puzzle – and Hunt with an opportunity to step out from his master’s shadow and prove his mettle as a natural philosopher in his own right. Solving the mystery of the bloodless bodies being left over London will take Hunt into some of the darkest – and most dangerous – corners of Restoration London, where the pursuit of knowledge rubs shoulders with criminality, and where a political hornet’s nest is waiting to be stirred up.

Seventeenth-century London comes vividly to life on the page in The Bloodless Boy, from the intrigues of the Court to the grimy streets of London’s shadowy back alleys. The early proceedings of the Royal Society – and the tensions created as the secular rationalism of the ‘new’ philosophy came into increasing conflict with established, often deeply-held, religious belief – are richly portrayed, and a real sense of the world that the characters occupy comes across on the page.

For me, the characters themselves didn’t come to life quite as vividly as the setting – probably because there were a lot of them. Fictional creations mix with real historical figures and, whilst I admire the dedication Robert J Lloyd has put into creating his rich and detailed world, there were times when I wondered whether the roles of some characters could have been combined to make it easier for readers to distinguish. A character list is provided at the beginning of the novel – which does help – but reading on my e-reader made flicking back and forth to refer to this every time that I’d forgotten who someone was something of a chore.

The mystery of the bloodless boy is, however, certainly intriguing – and considerably more complex than it first appears, and utilises this history of this tumultuous period to add additional depth. With as much a focus upon the ‘why’ as well as the ‘who’-dunnit, you also get a fantastic history lesson alongside your crime-solving, with a Hunt and Hooke’s inquiries taking them back to the dark days of the English Civil War, as well as the very edges of the moral boundaries of philosophical enquiry at the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment.

With its blend of political intrigue, underworld vice, and scientific enquiry, The Bloodless Boy reminded me of Ambrose Parry’s Will Raven and Sarah Fisher series of medical crime-thrillers, as well as Andrew Taylor’s Ashes of London series. With a strong narrative drive and an intriguing mystery, the pace rarely drops off. Whilst this may leave readers who like to spend a little longer getting to know their characters wanting more, those seeking a plot-driven crime thriller within a well-realised historical setting will find much to enjoy here.

The Bloodless Boy by Robert J Lloyd is published by Melville House and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

My thanks go to Nikki Griffiths at Melville House Press for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me onto and organising this blog tour. The tour continues until 25 November 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews

REVIEW!!! The Diabolical Bones (The Brontë Mysteries #2) by Bella Ellis

Image Description: The cover of The Diabolical Bones has the silhouette of a woman in white against an etched drawing of a house. Below her is an open book, the pages swirling around her. The background is deep red. Golden tree branches surround the central image and, above it, there is a small image of a skull.

It’s Christmas 1845 and Haworth is in the grip of a freezing winter.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are rather losing interest in detecting until they hear of a shocking discovery: the bones of a child have been found interred within the walls of a local house, Top Withens Hall, home to the scandalous and brutish Bradshaw family.

When the sisters set off to find out more, they are confronted with an increasingly complex and sinister case, which leads them into the dark world of orphanages, and onto the trail of other lost, and likely murdered children. After another local boy goes missing, Charlotte, Emily and Anne vow to find him before it’s too late.

But in order to do so, they must face their most despicable and wicked adversary yet – one that would not hesitate to cause them the gravest of harm..

Set a few months after the events of The Vanished Bride, this second novel in the Brontë Mysteries series finds Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell embroiled in a Christmas mystery the offers plenty of literary inspiration – but that, if not solved swiftly, could spell tragedy and danger for their community.

When the bones of a young boy are discovered hidden within a chimney at isolated Top Withens Hall, the Brontë siblings are soon drawn into complex tale of child labour, occultism, and missing children. Brutish Clifton Bradshaw, the master of Top Withens, is their most likely suspect – but rough as his manners might be, he swears he has no knowledge of how the bones came to lie within his house. As the sisters investigate, an old evil appears to be stirring around Haworth: one that puts the whole community – and the Brontë family – in danger.

Anyone familiar with the Brontë’s literary works will immediately recognise Top Withens Hall – supposedly the inspiration for Emily’s masterpiece, Wuthering Heights – and will delight in spotting the abundant references to other Brontë works woven throughout The Diabolical Bones. Indeed, the whole novel is infused with much of the wild, Gothic energy of Emily’s work – although, as with its predecessor, each of the Brontë sisters gets equal billing within the narrative.

Alternating between the perspectives of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte, one of the most wonderful – and poignant – aspects of this novel is the sense of character that Bella Ellis has been able to convey. Reading these novels, you get a real sense of the strength of each sister’s personality, and of their determination to succeed despite the limitations placed on them by their circumstances and by societal expectation. Anne, in particular, really lives on the page; her courage and kindness both coming across in equal measure. Reading these novels feels like being part of their circle – a true delight for anyone who has ever wanted to be friends with these extraordinary women – but also comes with a sense of poignancy when you remember that all that spark and brilliance was contained within such tragically short lives.

As for the mystery itself, The Diabolical Bones has a similarly taut and well woven narrative to its predecessor, often laying bare the grim realities of life behind the façade of respectable existence. The Gothic sensibilities infuse this second novel with a hint of the supernatural – and with a chilled and dark atmosphere that flits around the edge of the narrative and provides an ever-present sense of danger. This contrasts delightfully with moments of humour and warmth, such as Emily’s resignation when forced to cross the border into Lancashire, or the small yet meaningful interactions between Charlotte and her father’s curate, Arthur Nicholls.

There is also a wonderful sense of place within the book. Reading it transported me to the snowy moors – striding across them with Emily and Keeper, or brushing the snow off my hem and fussing over my hair alongside Charlotte. Having immersed myself once again in the world of the Brontë’s, I very much want to make visiting the landscape that so inspired them – and the parsonage that was their home – a reality in the not-too-distant future.

Fans of the Brontë’s work will, undoubtedly, love The Diabolical Bones – and should definitely seek out The Vanished Bride if they have not already done so – whilst fans of historical mysteries will find a darkly brooding yet rewarding tale that’s perfect for the Christmas season. That Bella Ellis (the Brontë-inspired pen name for bestselling author Rowan Coleman) adores their work is clear from the depth of research she has clearly conducted – and from the spirit and energy she has captured on the page. Novels featuring famous novelists of yesteryear can be a daunting read for fans – having a beloved author misrepresented on the page is a frustrating experience – but reading The Diabolical Bones bought me closer to the Brontë siblings – and made me return, yet again, to their marvellous works.

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher and to Netgalley UK for providing an e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews

REVIEW!!! The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

Image Description: The cover of Richard Osman’s The Man Who Died Twice features a fox with a ‘burglar’-style mask over its eyes

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

Having had a ton of fun reading Richard Osman’s quintessentially-British crime caper The Thursday Murder Club last year, I pre-ordered The Man Who Died Twice, eager to see what Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim got up to next.

Picking up on the following Thursday, The Man Who Died Twice sees the Thursday Murder Club gang rapidly embroiled in yet another mystery when former spy Elizabeth receives a letter from her charming but feckless ex-husband Douglas. MI5 operative, womaniser, and possible diamond thief, Douglas’s life is now under threat from the New York mafia, deadly international money launderer, Martin Lomax, and shadowy operatives from within the security services themselves.

Add in a vicious mugging that leaves one of the TMC gang in hospital, a local drug dealer keen to get into the international market, and the unwarranted attention of Douglas’s MI5 handlers, and the four friends are soon embroiled in yet another offbeat adventure of epic proportions – one that has plenty of gentle nods to the spy-thriller genre.

As was the case with its predecessor, The Man Who Died Twice manages a perfect balance between charming comedic adventures, head-scratching mysteries, and gently poignant reflections on aging, loneliness, friendship, death, and regret. The violent attack on one of the TMC’s own is particularly well executed, managing to convey the devastating mental and physical impact of the incident upon the victim whilst also showing the deep love and friendship that has developed between the key characters – and the extremes they will go to in order to ensure that the perpetrator doesn’t get away with his crime!

So much of the appeal of this series is in Osman’s tone, which perfectly captures the warmth and wit of the characters whilst being unafraid to confront the realities of aging. From Elizabeth’s fears for her husband Stephen, now suffering with the early stages of Alzheimer’s, to DCI Chris Hudson’s struggles with weight and fitness and his colleague PC Donna De Freitas’s loneliness, The Man Who Died Twice deals with all of them head on without ever losing the lightness of touch and warmth that categorises the book as a whole.

The other major appeal of this series is the characters. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim are an absolute delight but Osman has also created an appealing supporting cast, many of whom make return appearances from The Thursday Murder Club. The ever-reliable jack-of-all-trades Bogdan remains one of my favourite characters (and gets some scene-stealing lines and moments in this book), whilst Donna’s mum Patrice – who is now dating Donna’s boss, Chris – and Ron’s precocious grandson Kendrick make welcome additions to the growing cast of characters at Coopers Chase Retirement Community.

It was also nice to get a little more background into the members of the TMC themselves. Ron and Ibrahim are both given a little more to do in this second outing, whilst some of Elizabeth’s sharp edges are smoothed out as the shadows of her past come into the light. And Joyce? Well, Joyce continues to be Joyce – which is definitely no bad thing given how much fun she is!

Whilst I’d strongly recommend starting with The Thursday Murder Club if you’re new to the series (mainly because it is great but also because it’s a perfect introduction to the characters), The Man Who Died Twice is a standalone mystery that is sure to delight both new and returning fans, and definitely proves that The Thursday Murder Club was more than just a flash-in-the-pan hit. Osman has confidently built upon the solid foundations of the first book to develop his returning characters whilst offering readers another head-scratching mystery with the same page-turning propulsion of the original. I’m already eagerly awaiting the next outing for his septuagenarian sleuths!

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman is published by Penguin Viking and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Giveaway

BLOG TOUR GIVEAWAY!!! The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen

Image Description: The cover of The Rabbit Factor is bright yellow-orange and has the image of a man standing in front of a large-eyed, cartoon-style, one-eared rabbit

I have something a little different on the blog today because I am hosting my very first GIVEAWAY!! Details of how to enter can be found at the bottom of this post but, before you do that, let me tell you a little bit about the book in question!

About the Book

Award-winning author Antti Tuomainen launches his first series with The Rabbit Factor, an energetic black comedy, currently being adapted for the screen by Amazon/Mandeville Films with Steve Carell to star, and Antti executive producing.

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

About the Author

Image Description: Author Antti Tuomainen

Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published.

With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. A TV adaptation is in the works, and Jussi Vatanen (Man In Room 301) has just been announced as a leading role. Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’.

His latest thriller, Little Siberia, was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Awards and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

In total, Antti Tuomainen has been short- and longlisted for 12 UK awards.

You can follow Antti on Twitter at @antti_tuomainen.

About the Translator

David Hackston is a British translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. He graduated from University College London in 1999 with a degree in Scandinavian Studies and now lives in Helsinki where he works as a freelance translator.

Notable recent publications include the Anna Fekete trilogy by Kati Hiekkapelto, Katja Kettu’s wartime epic The Midwife, Pajtim Statovci’s enigmatic debut My Cat Yugoslavia, two novels by Helsinki noir author Antti Tuomainen, and Maria Peura’s coming-of-age novel At the Edge of Light. His drama translations include three plays by Heini Junkkaala, most recently Play it, Billy! (2012) about the life and times of jazz pianist Billy Tipton. David is also a regular contributor to Books from Finland. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation.

David is also a professional countertenor and has studied early music and performance practice in Helsinki and Portugal. He is a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki.

You can follow David on Twitter @countertenorist.

Praise for The Rabbit Factor

Novelist Martyn Waites has said that, ‘Antti Tuomainen turns the clichéd idea of dour, humourless Scandi noir upside down with The Rabbit Factor. Dark, gripping and hilarious […] Tuomainen is the Carl Hiaasen of the fjords’, whilst early readers on Goodreads have called the book ‘fun’ and ‘quirky’, and have praised Antti’s deft handling of both the farcical elements and the darker, drier humour within the novel.

You can also read more reviews as part of the Blog Tour for the novel, which is running until 20 October 2021! Just follow the hashtag #TheRabbitFactor, as well as publisher @OrendaBooks and @RandomTTours!

GIVEAWAY!!!

Thanks to Antti Tuomainen, publisher Orenda Books, and Anne at Random Things Tours I have ONE PRINT COPY of The Rabbit Factor to giveaway to a lucky UK reader!

All you need to do to win is to follow me (@shelfofunread) on Twitter and retweet the pinne tweet that links to this post! The giveaway is open from 9.00am on 04 October 2021 and closes at midnight on 11 October 2021. There is one winner. Terms & conditions apply (see below).

TERMS & CONDITIONS: UK only. The winner will be selected at random via Tweetdraw from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Good Luck!!

The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen (translated by David Hackston) is published by Orenda Books on 28 October 2021 (ebook/hardback) and is available to pre-order now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, Wordery, and direct from publisher Orenda.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me onto this blog tour and providing the opportunity to run a giveaway for the book.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!


Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

Image Description: The cover of For Your Own Good shows a woman’s face, partially obscured behind the cross-hatched glass of a doorframe

Teddy Crutcher won Teacher of the Year at the prestigious Belmont Academy. Everyone thinks he’s brilliant.

Only you know the truth.

They all smile when he tells us his wife couldn’t be more proud

But no-one has seen her in a while

They’re impressed when he doesn’t let anything distract him – even the tragic death of a school parent.

Even when the whispers start, saying it was murder.

You’re sure Teddy is hiding something about what happened that day.

You’re sure you can prove it.

But you didn’t stop to think that when it comes to catching a killer, there’s no place more dangerous than just one step behind . . .

For the students and teachers at Belmont Academy, life should be good. The elite private school has a track record for producing illustrious alumni and excellent GPA students. Parents can be assured their children will be granted a wealth of opportunities and the staff – and can suitably influence decisions, either directly or indirectly, should that not be the case. The staff are exemplary; none more so that Teddy Crutcher, Teacher of the Year.

Scratch below the surface of Belmont Academy, however, and you’ll find a simmering hotbed of professional rivalries, student resentments, briber, corruption, secrets and lies – all of it ready to go up in flames with one strike of the match. When a prominent member of the school community collapses during a retirement party, apparently poisoned, it isn’t long before the carefully constructed facades of Belmont Academy – and those who work and study within its walls – begins to go up in flames.

For Your Own Good, Samantha Downing’s latest psychological thriller, is a page-turningly compulsive examination of several characters who I suspect many readers will love to hate. Told from several different perspectives, we get to see Belmont from the perspective of a wealthy student, a long-serving teacher, a bitter ex-alumni and, of course, Teacher of the Year himself, Teddy Crutcher.

Teddy was, for me, a deeply unpleasant character to be inside the head of. It is clear from the outset of the book that he has several axes to grind at Belmont and a chip on his shoulder so sharp it could cut people (and frequently does). Underneath it all, Teddy just wants what is best for people, but how he judges what is ‘best’ – and the actions he takes to ensure the ‘best’ outcome for his students and co-workers – is deeply disturbing.

To be honest, I didn’t really like any of the characters at Belmont Academy. Samantha Downing has created a really toxic environment in Belmont Academy – and has clearly had a great deal of fun filling it with equally toxic personalities to create a really tangled web of motives and opportunities. Unusually for me however, the inherent unlikability of the characters didn’t stop me from wanting to know what happened to them. For Your Own Good is the true definition of a page-turning read and Samantha Downing really keeps the tension high with plenty of twists and unexpected revelations right up until the final pages. I definitely see what was coming and was often left reeling from a character death, shocking reveal, or sudden turn of events.

And whilst all of the characters were, in their own ways, quite unpleasant and difficult people to be around, I found their perspectives unique and interesting. Teddy, for example, operates using a weirdly twisted logic and seems to genuinely believe that his extreme methods and personal vendettas are in the best interests of those he targets. Another character is wholly motivated by revenge – and whilst her investigation of Teddy is undoubtedly uncovering the truth about him, you’re left wondering whether she’s doing the right thing for entirely the wrong reasons. Similar uncertainties can be found within all of the characters and, for me, it definitely elevated the novel above the realm of the run-of-the-mill psychological thriller.

For Your Own Good won’t be for everyone – if you need a sympathetic viewpoint character, you might want to steer clear – but for fans of psychological thrillers there is much to enjoy here and readers already familiar with the work of Sarah Pinborough, Louise Candlish, and J P Delaney would do well to check out Samantha Downing’s latest!

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing is published by Penguin Michael Joseph and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 20 September 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Image Description: The book cover of Lies Like Wildfire shows the silhouettes of 5 teenagers and some trees within a flame, set against a black backdrop.

The monsters have known each other their whole lives. This is their final summer before college – time to hang out, fall in love and dream about the future.

Until they accidentally start a forest fire which destroys their hometown and leaves death in its wake.

Desperate for the truth to remain hidden, the group make a pact of silence.

But the twisted secret begins to spin out of control and when one of the friends disappears they all become suspects.

We know how it starts but where does it end?

The proof of Jennifer Lynn Alvarez’s first YA novel, Lies Like Wildfire, landed just after I’d finished reading the excellent Wicked Little Deeds and, eager for some more YA crime/thriller goodness and intrigued by the premise, I dived straight in!

Set amidst the blazing hear of Northern California’s fire season, Lies Like Wildfire is the story of Hannah, daughter of the local sheriff in the small forest town of Gap Mountain, and her four friends: Mo, Luke, Violet, and Drummer. Known locally as ‘the Monsters’, the five have known one another their whole lives – and are looking forward to one final summer of hanging out together before college.

But when the simmering tensions within the group reach boiling point, the Monsters find themselves accidentally starting a deadly forest fire that destroys their town and leaves death in its wake. Afraid for their futures, the group make a pact of silence. When one of the group goes missing after threatening to break their pact and tell everything to the police, it isn’t long before the lies – like the uncontrollable wildfire that sparked them – spread dangerously out of control.

With a fantastic premise, I had very high hopes for Lies Like Wildfire. And there was a lot that I enjoyed about this novel. In a note at the end of the book, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez explains that its genesis was her own experience of the Tubbs Fire, an uncontrollable wildfire that roared through her small community, burning for 23 days, causing $1.2 billion in damage and taking 22 lives. This personal knowledge of wildfire – of the sudden evacuation procedures, the fear, the anger, and the emotional toll of the aftermath – really comes across in the novel and, for me, the chapters where the fire was raging were the most compelling in the book.

Unfortunately I failed to find the same emotional connection to Hannah and her fellow Monsters. It’s hard to say too much without giving away elements of the story but, to be honest, I found Hannah to be a distant and difficult protagonist. Infatuated with her childhood friend Drummer and easily manipulated as a result, Hannah seemed to veer between resolute and chaotic, periodically stomping off into a mood whenever her police officer father or one of his colleagues asked her a question (and then wondering why she and her friends have become suspects in the investigation). I also felt as if her character changed completely over the course of the book and, whilst that can partly be explained by the emotional stress she undergoes, some elements of that change felt a little forced.

Meanwhile I found Drummer – the object of Hannah’s affections – to be emotionally manipulative, selfish and even a bit creepy at times. I get the feeling that Alvarez doesn’t actually want her readers to like Drummer – which is fair enough as characters definitely don’t have to be likeable to be compelling – but I’d have liked to get a sense of why Hannah likes him. From what I could tell, he treats her terribly for most of the time! The other ‘Monsters’ – Violet, Luke, and Mo – were more likeable but, alas, I didn’t feel like we got to spend as much time with them and, whilst the ever-shifting dynamics of a teenage friendship group are really well portrayed, I felt some of the subplots were wrapped up a little too quickly for them to real make an impact.

The story itself is fast-paced and compelling with lots of action and plenty of twists – although a mid-book twist involving a bear attack and a bout of amnesia really pushed the boundaries of plausibility for me and, I felt, provided a convenient way of extending a mystery that was otherwise wearing a little thin.

As you can probably tell, Lies Like Wildfire was a very mixed bag for me. I loved the original concept and the way that the author managed to really convey every stage of the wildfire on the page. And I felt that the emotionally charged dynamics of a teenage friendship group were really well portrayed – as was the tension of constant lying to friends, family, and the authorities. Unfortunately I just didn’t care enough about any of the characters to get really invested in the book and a couple of the plot points and twists fell somewhat flat for me.

Other readers probably won’t be anywhere near as picky as this. If you don’t mind an unlikeable narrator or five, Lies Like Wildfire is a compelling and twisty YA read and its tangled web of toxic friendships, love triangles, and lies is sure to appeal!

Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is published by Penguin on 09 September 2021 and is available to pre-order now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 15 September 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content by following #UltimateBlogTour and #TheWriteReads on Twitter and Instagram.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews

REVIEW DOUBLE FEATURE!!! The Appeal by Janice Hallett & True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

That’s right folks, today’s post is a double bonanza of crime fiction related goodness with reviews of two utterly fantastic crime novels that, although quite different in terms of tone and setting, both play with our readerly expectations and use their form and presentation to great effect. Both are strong contenders for my Books of the Year and, despite going into both with a fair bit of hype behind them, more than exceeded my expectations. So without further ado, let’s get to our first book!

Image Description: The cover of Janice Hallett’s The Appeal has an black and white line drawn illustration of a pretty village against a cream background. Over the window of one of the houses , there is a red ‘X’, with blood splatters to the edge of the image.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

In a town full of secrets…

Someone was murdered. Someone went to prison. And everyone’s a suspect.

Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death. Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.

Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered. Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?

Taking the form of a case file, Janice Hallett’s The Appeal presents crime fiction aficionados with a tantalising proposition: can you turn investigator and solve the case?

Told via a series of documents, The Appeal follows law students Femi and Charlotte as they delve into a lengthy trail of emails and documentary evidence to try and get to the bottom of the tragic death that rocked the small town of Lockwood in July 2018. Roderick Tanner QC is preparing to launch an appeal on behalf of the person who has been sent to prison for murder – but as the novel opens, you the reader don’t know who that is or even who has been murdered!

Instead you’re presented with a series of emails between the members of amateur theatrical society The Fairway Players. They’re preparing to welcome two new members – and to begin casting and rehearsals for a charity production of All My Sons which will be in aid of ‘A Cure for Poppy’, the charitable appeal set up to held the granddaughter of one of their leading members receive life-saving cancer treatment. But as the novel progresses – and Femi and Charlotte’s review of the evidence continues – it becomes apparent that all is not well in The Fairway Players. Amidst the traditional small town rivalries and petty power plays, darker forces are at work – and it might not just be murder that is the eventual outcome.

The documentary form gives The Appeal real pace and compulsion – I absolutely tore through the book, finishing it in just a couple of days! And whilst I did guess some of the twists and turns (working out the victim and accused murderer was pretty easy), other revelations kept me guessing right up until the very end! Janice Hallett has done a fantastic job of layering various levels of mystery and tension, leaving you as the reader/investigator trying to figure out whether someone’s seemingly innocuous message about staying out late for a few drinks with friends at the golf club is actually a cover for a personal intrigue – or a much darker and sinister deed. Some strands of the case turn out to be false leads and red herrings whilst others, seemingly small at first, morph into larger and more significant events giving the book a real sense of being a case file in progress – and of the reader’s investigations progressing alongside Femi and Charlotte’s.

I can’t say that the characters particularly drew me in to The Appeal – with so many of them it was, at times, easy to forget some of the more peripheral figures and I was very glad that I was reading in paperback so that I could flick back to the list of key players near the front of the book! In this way, The Appeal reminds me of the works of Agatha Christie – her standout characters tend to stick in the mind but many of her novels contain characters that flit around the borders, dropping in with a significant bit of information and then leaving. And, as with Christie’s works, the appeal of The Appeal very much lies in the compulsive plotting and the way in which it plays around with its form and with the reader’s narrative expectations. Brilliant, brilliant stuff.

Which brings me, quite neatly, to the next book I want to review…

Image Description: The cover of Joseph Knox’s True Crime Story shows a greyscale photographic image of a young woman against a backdrop of modern apartments. Her face is largely in shadow so that her features are obscured.

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. But where some versions of events overlap, aligning perfectly with one another, others stand in stark contrast, giving rise to troubling inconsistencies.

Shaken by revelations of Zoe’s secret life, and stalked by a figure from the shadows, Evelyn turns to crime writer Joseph Knox to help make sense of a case where everyone has something to hide.

Zoe Nolan may be missing presumed dead, but her story is only just beginning.

Joseph Knox’s True Crime Story, his first standalone novel following on from his successful Aidan Waits series, delights in experimenting with form, creating a metafictional Manchester in which the writer, Joseph Knox, is both presenting the ‘true crime story’ of the title – an account of the disappearance of young university student Zoe Nolan – and becoming increasingly embroiled both in the mysterious death of the account’s author, Evelyn Mitchell and, possibly, of the case itself.

Told through a series of interviews between Evelyn and Zoe’s closest friends and family, interspersed with emails between Knox and Evelyn about the book, True Crime Story uses its narrative form and structure to not only propel the story and heighten the intrigue – inviting the reader to turn investigator in a similar way to Hallett’s The Appeal – but also to highlight the narrative voices that are missing from the tale.

Because, ultimately, True Crime Story is novel that investigates who gets to tell the stories of missing – and murdered – young women? Who decides whether Zoe Nolan was a dutiful daughter, a gifted musician, a manipulative hussy, an attention-seeker, or a messed up young woman? Could she be all of those things – or none of them? And who decides how Evelyn Mitchell’s work is presented to us, the readers – who has editorial control and what does that lead them to omit? And why?

It’s incredibly cleverly done but not in a pretentious way. As an English Literature student, I delighted in picking apart the metafiction of True Crime Story – and of thinking about the ways in which Knox uses the expectations of narrative, form, and genre to interrogate wider questions about the perception of young women in our society, the portrayal of missing women and girls in media narratives, the control of those narratives, and the rise in ‘true’ crime fiction stories and podcasts. But if all that sounds a bit pretentious, I should stress that I also enjoyed the novel as a reader, appreciating its well-realised characters and setting, interview-like presentation (which reminded me a lot of Six Stories, one of my favourite series of recent years) and compulsive readability.

With a selection of divisive characters – you’ll find yourself both loving and loathing many of them (often at the same time) – and plenty of unexpected twists and revelations, True Crime Story is both a gripping crime novel and a shocking, sometimes chilling, examination of the fate of one young woman – and the implications of her fate for contemporary society.

I can honestly say that both The Appeal and True Crime Story are strong contenders for my Best Books of the Year list. Although different in tone and setting, both of them play with the expectations of the crime genre – and the unique structures through which they present their stories – to heighten the tension and draw the reader into the narrative.

I stormed through both novels, desperate to get back to them whenever forced to tear myself away to attend to real-world life. And, unusually for me and crime fiction, I’ve kept both to read again in the future, sure that I’ll want to go back and unpick some of the clues and revelations through a re-read. Both are highly, highly recommend.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett is published by Viper Books. True Crime Story by Joseph Knox is published by Doubleday. Both books are available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Wicked Little Deeds by Kat Ellis

Image Description: The cover for Wicked Little Deeds shows a young woman in silhouette running away from the camera down a corridor.

The rumours don’t add up, but the bodies are starting to…

From its creepy town mascot to the story of its cursed waterfall, Burden Falls is a small town dripping with superstition. Ava Thorn knows this well – since the horrific accident she witnessed a year ago, she’s been plagued by nightmares.

But when her school nemesis is brutally murdered and Ava is the primary suspect, she starts to wonder if the legends surrounding the town are more fact than fiction.

Whatever secrets Burden Falls is hiding, there’s a killer on the loose, and they have a vendetta against the Thorns…

Regular readers of The Shelf may know that I’ve been enjoying the occasional YA thriller recently. I read and LOVED both The Cousins and The Inheritance Games last year and, since then, have added considerably to my TBR by seeking our more writers in the YA mystery/thriller genre.

What I hadn’t considered was that I could also add another of my favourite genres into that already delightful mix – the ghost story. So imagine my delight when Kat Ellis’s Wicked Little Deeds landed on my doormat described as (to quote Mina and the Undead author Amy McCaw) “Riverdale meets The Haunting of Hill House“. Sold already? Because I certainly was! But before you race off to the nearest book shop or your favoured web retailer of choice, let me tell you a little more about Wicked Little Deeds and why it’s so good (because yes, I loved it – it contains all the ingredients that make for Shelf of Unread catnip so what did you expect?!).

Ava Thorn’s family have lived in the small town of Burden Falls for generations. The Bloody Thorns of Thorn Manor are as well known as the legend of Dead-Eyed Sadie, the town’s most famous ghostly legend – as is the fact that a sighting of Sadie is supposed to portend tragedy for any Thorn unlucky enough to catch a glimpse of her. Following a horrific accident that killed her parents, Ava is reluctantly leaving Thorn Manor – and its ghosts – behind her.

But when pretty and popular Freya Miller – Ava’s school nemesis and the daughter of the man who ruined her life – is found brutally murdered, Ava begins to wonder if the creepy stories that surround her family might be true after all. Reluctantly teaming up with Freya’s brother Dominic, Ava begins investigating the truth behind Dead-Eyed Sadie. Who was she – and why does every tragedy in town seem to lead back to a Thorn? As secrets are uncovered and old truths are laid bare, Ava and Dominic must confront both the past, and the killer who is waiting for them in the present.

Combining the compulsive suspense of a thriller with the sinister chills of a ghost story, Wicked Little Deeds (published as Burden Falls in the US) is the perfect page-turner to pick up as the nights begin to draw in! I was rapidly drawn into the story and, with the cliff-hanger chapter endings and constant stream of mysteries and revelations, I read the book in just a couple of sittings.

Ava is, if not always a likeable character, a very sympathetic one. Grieving for her parents and the loss of her family home, she’s angry and resentful but also determined, driven, and brave. I liked her very much – even when she was being horrid to her friends or lashing out at easy targets like the Miller family – and I really liked how resilient and resourceful she was. Kat Ellis has done a fantastic job of capturing what its like to be a teenager – all high drama and shifting emotions that, sometimes, you barely understand yourself. And that applies equally well to the other characters too – from queen bee Freya and Ava’s preppy best friend Ford to Freya’s quieter, more reflective (and unbearably handsome) brother Dominic, all of the characters came across as real people with real, messed-up emotions and shifting, complex motivations.

The novel blends the mystery/thriller and horror/supernatural elements of the story together really well, although I’d say the focus does stay on the mystery throughout as Ava and Dominic work to stop the spate of murders and uncover the truth behind the old Thorn family legends. That said, things do go towards the horrific in places – there are some fairly gory moments when the bodies are discovered, and some of the descriptions tend towards the gruesome so readers of a sensitive disposition should be forewarned. Trigger warnings also for bereavement, a road traffic collision, mentions of alcohol abuse/alcoholism, mentions of depression, psychological abuse, and drug abuse. Taking the edge off all those dark themes, there are also some fantastic friendships, cutting humour, and a gentle, nicely interwoven romance.

Saying any more about the plot would be to risk spoilers but I will say that this was definitely an edge-of-your-seat, can’t-turn-the-pages-fast-enough read for me! Once the story got going, I was so eager to get back to my book and get to the next chapter – definitely one of those reads where I wanted to put life on hold for a bit! Perfect for anyone looking who loves dark and creepy mysteries or YA thrillers with a horror twist, Wicked Little Deeds might have been my first novel by Kat Ellis, but it certainly won’t be my last!

Wicked Little Deeds by Kat Ellis (published as Burden Falls in the US) is published by Penguin and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 20 August 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content by following #UltimateBlogTour and #TheWriteReads on Twitter and Instagram.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets – even the dead.

In the quiet, wealthy enclave of Brecken Hill, an older couple is brutally murdered hours after a tense Easter dinner with their three adult children.

Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew.

Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions?

That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you’d know.

Wouldn’t you?

I’ve mentioned previously on the blog that, after reading a small glut of them, I was suffering from a severe case of thriller fatigue. As a result, I’ve not read any of Shari Lapena’s books despite having had them recommended to me by several of my favourite BookTubers, bloggers, and friends. So when the opportunity arose to be part of the blog tour for Shari’s latest novel, Not a Happy Family, I was instantly interested. And when the plot sounded like a combination of two of my favourite thriller tropes (Family Secrets meets Rich People Problems anyone?), I was even more eager to jump right in and get reading!

With an opening that features the world’s most horrendous family dinner, Not a Happily Family makes swift work of introducing us to the victims – vindictive patriarch Fred Merton and his ineffectual wife Sheila – and our primary suspects, comprising of the Merton’s three adult children Catherine, Dan, and Jenna, their respective partners Ted, Lisa, and Jake, and the family’s former nanny-cum-cleaner Irena.

A few short hours after the ending of that tense and unpleasant dinner, Fred and Sheila Merton are dead in an apparent robbery – but why would a robber slit Fred’s throat and then stab him multiple times in a vicious and seemingly uncontrollable rage? When detectives Reyes and Barr arrive on the scene, they immediately think that something feels wrong about this crime scene. And when it turns out that Fred Merton intended to change his will, it become apparent that someone much closer to the victims may have had a very good reason for wanting them dead.

There are shades of Knives Out in Shari Lapena’s portrayal of the deliciously dysfunctional Merton family, none of whom make for especially sympathetic protagonists – but all of whom held me in grim fascination as I read. Fred Merton is selfish, vindictive, and controlling, ably assisted by his ineffectual and neglectful wife Sheila. Their children, despite being grown up, remain trapped in long-established patterns: Catherine, the ‘favourite’ is a successful doctor, middle child Dan remains the family failure, and wild child Jenna is living it up off her parents’ allowance. And that’s before adding in Fred’s rapacious sister Audrey and the other skeletons in the family closet!

As with Knives Out, it turns out that all of the Merton children had good reason to want their parents dead – and as the story progresses, all of them will tie themselves – and those around them – up in a tangled web of secrets, lies, allegiances, and betrayals. All of which makes for a fast-paced and suspenseful read!

With perfect pacing, Shari Lapena gradually peels back the layers of this maladjusted family setup whilst simultaneously ratcheting up the domestic tension and suburban paranoia. With all the secrets and lies involved, I genuinely had no idea which of the Merton siblings might have committed the crime and the final reveal, when it came, was brilliant – as was the final, unexpected, twist in the tale!

I often struggle to enjoy novels with unsympathetic narrators but, despite non of the characters being especially worthy of sympathy in Not a Happy Family, I was drawn towards finding out what happened and found myself compulsively turning the pages to the end long after what should have been my bedtime! Lapena certainly knows how to control the pace – and how to close her chapters on a cliff-hanger!

Whilst this was my first Shari Lapena thriller, it certainly won’t be my last. Although not the most demanding of mysteries, Not a Happy Family held 100% of my interest while I was reading it and made for a compulsive read. With a compelling narrative, some delightfully awful characters, and a page-turning pace, this is the perfect read for whiling away a day at the beach or a weekend in a sunny garden. Existing fans of Lapena’s work will undoubtedly find much to enjoy here – and any thriller fans who have not yet discovered her work should seek to speedily rectify that with this book!

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena is published by Bantam Press and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, and Waterstones.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 11 August 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Killing Tide by Lin Anderson

After a fierce storm hits Scotland, a mysterious cargo ship is swept ashore in the Orkney Isles. Boarding the vessel uncovers three bodies, recently deceased and in violent circumstances. Forensic scientist Dr Rhona MacLeod’s study of the crime scene suggests that a sinister game was being played on board, but who were the hunters? And who the hunted?

Meanwhile in Glasgow DS Michael McNab is called to a horrific incident where a young woman has been set on fire. Or did she spark the flames herself?

As evidence arises that connects the two cases, the team grow increasingly concerned that the truth of what happened on the ship and in Glasgow hints at a wider conspiracy that stretches down to London and beyond to a global stage. Orcadian Ava Clouston, renowned investigative journalist believes so, and sets out to prove it, putting herself in grave danger.

When the Met Police challenge Police Scotland’s jurisdiction, it becomes obvious that there are ruthless individuals who are willing to do whatever it takes to protect government interests. Which could lead to even more deaths on Scottish soil . . .

Long-time followers of The Shelf will know that I enjoy a good police procedural, especially if there’s an element of forensic mystery. So quite how I’ve managed to miss Lin Anderson’s Rhona MacLeod series is beyond me!

The Killing Tide is the sixteenth outing for Glasgow-based forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod and sees her called to a possible incident of self-immolation in a Glasgow tenement, followed swiftly by a trip to Orkney to identify three bodies washed up on a seemingly deserted former cargo ship. At first glance the two cases could not be more different but, as Rhona and her colleague DS Michael McNab investigate, it becomes apparent that a shadowy company, operating on the Dark Web and providing a deadly playground for the rich and powerful, may connect the deaths.

As Orcadian investigative journalist Ava Clouston begins investigating the shadowy organisation, and evidence in the police investigation grows, it becomes clear that these four deaths may hint at a wider conspiracy – one that spreads to London, and the global stage beyond. And when the Met Police send up a detective to challenge Police Scotland’s jurisdiction on the case, Rhona, DS McNab and Ava begin to question if the conspiracy could lead into the corridors of power justice itself. One thing is certain – there are ruthless individuals who will stop at nothing to conceal their secrets. And that will lead Rhona and her colleagues into terrible danger – and to even more deaths on Scottish soil.

Jumping into an established series at the sixteenth book is always a slightly nerve-wracking experience but The Killing Tide works perfectly well as a standalone. Whilst there are plenty of references to the established relationships between characters who are clearly series regulars – and to some of the previous cases they’ve worked on together – these are made clear for new readers in a way that neither spoils previous books nor bores existing fans with unnecessary exposition.

The plot rattles along – aided by short, sharp chapters that switch between multiple perspectives and often end on tantalising cliff-hangers that leave you racing to find out what happens next! Combined with the multi-stranded investigations across Orkney, Glasgow and London, this made The Killing Tide a compelling and compulsive read that takes in illegal fight clubs, people trafficking, undercover police operations, and corruption before its end – and that will put more than one of our protagonists in life-threatening circumstances.

As such, trigger warnings for several graphic scenes of physical violence, plenty of choice language, detailed descriptions of crime scenes, references to sexual violence, and drug abuse. Although never gratuitous, Lin Anderson does not shy away from depicting the darker and more dangerous side of police investigations – and DS McNab is a detective who doesn’t always play entirely by the rules!

That said, I really did like the main characters in The Killing Tide. DS McNab might be no angel but despite making some questionable choices (primarily in his personal life), he is definitely one of the good guys – and puts his heart and soul into getting the job done and bringing the perpetrators of these dreadful crimes to justice. Rhona MacLeod is smart and intelligent – both academically and emotionally – and her chatty and flamboyant assistant Chrissy makes for a perfect pairing! Investigative journalist Ava also makes for an interesting viewpoint character, being torn between her undoubtedly dangerous – but rewarding – career and her young brother’s wish for her to come home to Orkney and help him keep control over the family farm following the tragic deaths of their parents. Lin Anderson does a fantastic job of balancing such personal struggles with the investigation of the ongoing cases and, by the end of the book, I was keen to spend more time with these characters – and to go back and discover what I’d missed in earlier books!

Fans of the Rhona MacLeod series will probably be well aware of Anderson’s ability to combine a gripping narrative with some wonderfully evocative and atmospheric writing – and are unlikely to be disappointed by The Killing Tide. For readers new to the series, The Killing Tide offers a perfect place to jump into a satisfying slice of some of the best modern ‘tartan noir’ that I’ve read. The Killing Tide may be the first Rhona MacLeod thriller I’ve had the pleasure of reading – but it certainly won’t be my last!

The Killing Tide by Lin Anderson is published by Macmillan and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 18 August 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!