Tag Archives: crime thriller

Bloody January – Alan Parks


When a teenage boy shoots a young woman dead in the middle of a busy Glasgow street and then commits suicide, Detective Harry McCoy is sure of one thing. It wasn’t a random act of violence.

With his new partner in tow, McCoy uses his underworld network to lead the investigation but soon runs up against a secret society led by Glasgow’s wealthiest family, the Dunlops.

McCoy’s boss doesn’t want him to investigate. The Dunlops seem untouchable. But McCoy has other ideas . . .

In a helter-skelter tale – winding from moneyed elite to hipster music groupies to the brutal gangs of the urban wasteland – Bloody January brings to life the dark underbelly of 1970s Glasgow and introduces a dark and electrifying new voice in Scottish noir.


Bloody January is the first in a new series of crime novels from debut author Alan Parks.  It’s a very good debut novel, set in Glasgow in January 1973.  It’s well written and it captures the time and place extremely well. McCoy’s Glasgow is a cold, dark, miserable place populated by violent criminals, drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, the lost and the dispossessed. It certainly isn’t a nice, cosy detective novel. It’s gritty, dark and bloody.

It opens with Detective Harry McCoy making his way through Barlinnie prison having been summoned there (apparently) by an inmate, who tells McCoy that a girl called Lorna is going to be killed the next day in the city centre.

Despite managing to identify ‘Lorna’ while waiting to speak to her she is shot dead, in front of McCoy and his new sidekick Wattie, by a teenage boy who then shoots himself. Later that day, they find out the prisoner who told McCoy about the girl being killed has been found in the prison showers with his throat slit. No witnesses of course.

There is not much to go on to link the deaths. No obvious connection but McCoy has contacts in the criminal underworld and his enquiries eventually lead him to the home of the very wealthy Dunlop family. Despite his suspicions he might have, he is ordered to stay away from the Dunlops. The whole thing reeks of corruption and the possibility that the rich and well-connected are above the law.

Like many fictional detectives, Harry McCoy is somewhat flawed. Possibly more than most. He is potentially an alcoholic, uses recreational drugs, frequents prostitutes and associates with criminals. I’m not sure if I’ve read a book where the main character seems to get so many ‘doings’ or severe beatings and yet still manages to keep his job and continue to solve cases. There are strong references to problems in his past but we don’t know the whole story. He’s known gangster Stevie Cooper since they were boys and gets information and contacts through him but at what cost?

‘Wattie’ has been transferred from another area to experience big city police work, and is assigned to McCoy to shadow him and learn the ropes. He’s young, bright and keen. McCoy didn’t want to be lumbered with someone but had no choice in the matter. Wattie has really been thrown in at the deep end with three deaths on his first day out with McCoy.

Harry McCoy doesn’t have many redeeming features and yet there is something interesting about him. I’m hoping this is just the first book in the series and that perhaps in time he will get his act together and start to sort out his personal life.

An excellent violent, dark, crime novel.

[My thanks to NetGalley and Canongate Books for providing an advance copy of this title]


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Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. She’s worked on some terrifying cases but never seen anything like this before. 

As Erika and her team set to work, she makes the link with another victim – the body of a young woman dumped in an identical suitcase two weeks ago. 

Erika quickly realises she’s on the trail of a serial killer who’s already made their next move. Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the victim of a brutal attack. 

But nothing will stop Erika. As the body count rises, the twin daughters of her colleague Commander Marsh are abducted, and the stakes are higher than ever before. Can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer. 


Cold Blood is number 5 in the Detective Erika Foster series and it’s another cracking thriller from Robert Bryndza.

This time a man’s mutilated and dismembered body is found in a suitcase washed up on shore of the River Thames.  There is no identification with the body but Erika manages to link the case to a young woman’s body that had been washed up in an identical suitcase two weeks earlier.  It appears the gruesome murders could be drug related and also that there may be at least two killers involved.

There are lots of things I like about Robert’s crime writing.

I love the way we are straight into a crime scene almost on the first page – no beating about the bush.

I like that we get to know fairly quickly who has ‘done the deed’ and we see events unfold from the perpetrators’ point of view as well as Police investigations. This doesn’t spoil the story; that’s when it becomes a gripping psychological thriller – how Erika and her colleagues work to solve the crime and try to catch the criminals. Robert is a very good storyteller. You also see the killers’ relationship change throughout the book. What starts off as something that might be considered an infatuation quickly develops into something more sinister and manipulative and then something very violent, brutal and shocking.

I like the fact that it’s a series, that characters have a bit of depth and there is some continuity although they may have a principal supporting role in one book and in another a more minor role. Equally important, each book can be read as a stand alone although I would recommend reading them in order. I really like Robert’s writing style and the way the words flow easily.

I’ve read all the Erika Foster books and travelled with her on her ‘journey’. She has definitely moved on from the first book/s. She seems more mature, mellow. She began by fighting against her superiors frequently – not always to Erika’s advantage. If she believes she is right she will argue her case and then do what she feels she has to do. She is still disagreeing with her superiors but I get the feeling she’s a bit less abrasive and argumentative. Even if she’s taken off a case, she’s more than likely to find another way of continuing her investigation.

In the last couple of books I feel she’s been more reflective, wondering what path she should take. She’s now a widow in her 40s (approaching 50) with no children. She’s turned down a promotion because she couldn’t see herself as a pen pusher stuck in an office most of the time.

There are some pretty gruesome bits to this book. The horrific murders, a shocking betrayal by a colleague, a brutal assault on Erika herself, the kidnap of Commander Marsh’s two young daughters, a race against the clock to find the little girls all leading to a shocking climax.

I would definitely recommend this book to those who like crime thrillers.  In fact I recommend all five books in the series so far.  They can all be read as stand alone but are best read from the start of the series.  Here are links to my previous reviews.

The Girl in the Ice

The Night Stalker

Dark Water

Last Breath

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Bookouture for providing an advance copy]


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Last Breath by Robert Bryndza


When the tortured body of a young woman is found in a dumpster, her eyes swollen shut and her clothes soaked with blood, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first at the crime scene. The trouble is, this time, it’s not her case. 

While she fights to secure her place on the investigation team, Erika can’t help but get involved and quickly finds a link to the unsolved murder of a woman four months earlier. Dumped in a similar location, both women have identical wounds – a fatal incision to their femoral artery. 

Stalking his victims online, the killer is preying on young pretty women using a fake identity. How will Erika catch a murderer who doesn’t seem to exist? 

Then another girl is abducted while waiting for a date. Erika and her team must get to her before she becomes another dead victim, and, come face to face with a terrifyingly sadistic individual.


Last Breath is the fourth Detective Erika Foster novel from Robert Bryndza. I’ve loved every one of them. They just seem to get better and better.

Erika is still not happy in her current post – in the Projects Team. She is not meant for pen-pushing and is desperate to get back to the Murder Investigation Team and do the job she is best at.

The book opens with a body being placed in a large rubbish container and the subsequent discovery of the mutilated body.

Although no longer a part of the Murder Investigation Team, Erika, due to circumstances, manages to be one of the first officers at the scene where she has a run in with Superintendent Sparks. Despite being told to leave in no uncertain terms, being Erika, she goes behind his back and talks to witnesses.

When she later get more information from a witness, she passes it on the the officer in charge but again she is warned to stay out of the investigation. Of course, she continues to make her own enquiries. She comes across a potential link to another case and passes the information on to the DCI in charge of the case but gets no response. To compound her woes it turns out Erika had applied to be transferred back to the Murder Investigation Team but has been turned down.

Her frustration at being locked out of the case is so great that she even considers apologising to Sparks and is prepared to grovel to get back to what she does best – solving murders.

It’s a very good, satisfying thriller that moves along at a good pace. You do get to know “whodunnit” early on. It’s as if you are able to see inside the head of the killer and the lengths he will go to, to avoid being caught. There is a kind of game of cat and mouse between the killer and the Police. He uses fake identities on social media to trap his victims and then later tortures them. The story is sometimes quite dark and violent but it never seems excessive. There is a good balance of action, dialogue and background information. The different threads of the story come together very well. I think also that knowing the identity of the killer early on makes it even more exciting. There are also red herrings and plot twists and the action keeps on coming right to the end.

I like the way that Erika and other characters have developed and changed since the first book. Erika has definitely softened a little and mellowed since the first book but her tenacious and sometimes stubborn streak still appears. Former colleagues are also back in this book. Having said that you could easily read book 4 as a stand alone and still enjoy it. Previous relationships are briefly explained where necessary. Of course if you read all four books in the correct order I think you would get even more enjoyment.

Occasionally you get a series of books where the first one is exciting and brilliant but over time subsequent stories seem less exciting and fresh. I certainly haven’t found that with Robert Bryndza’s books. I think they get better and better. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend his books to people who enjoy a good well plotted crime thriller.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Bookouture for an advance copy of Last Breath]

Note:  When I started to draft a review of Robert’s latest Erika Foster novel (Cold Blood) I realised I hadn’t actually posted a review of Last Breath.  Maybe you can tell I’m a fan of all Robert’s writing.




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Here and Gone by Haylen Beck




Audra has finally left her abusive husband. She’s taken the family car and her young children, Sean and Louise, are buckled up in the back. This is their chance for a fresh start.

Audra keeps to the country roads to avoid attention and finds herself on an empty road in Arizona, far from home. She’s looking for a safe place to stay for the night when she spots something in her rear-view mirror. A police car is following her and the lights are flickering. Blue and red.

As Audra pulls over she is intensely aware of how isolated they are. Her perfect escape is about to turn into a nightmare beyond her imagining…

Dark secrets and a heart-pounding race to reveal the truth lie at the heart of this page-turning thriller.


Wow. I loved this book. I was there – right from the first page of Here and Gone. You feel the hot, dry Arizona heat, the dust, Audra’s exhaustion, her aching muscles.

She is travelling through Arizona on her way to California, trying to keep to country roads, with her two children aged 11 and 6 in the back of the station wagon, hoping to make a fresh start, having fled New York and an abusive husband. She’s looking out for a safe place for them to stay for the night.

When a police cruiser appears behind her and gets her to pull over in an isolated area a few miles from where there is a place to stay, she’s fearful that the authorities have found her and will have her charged with parental abduction. The officer tells her the car is overloaded and that it’s not safe to drive and offers to move some of her stuff from the back of her car into his cruiser and to take Audra and the children to the guesthouse in town and arrange for her car to be towed there later. However while moving some of her stuff, the officer finds a bag of marijuana. Audra swears the drugs are not hers but she is arrested, handcuffed and searched, despite no female officer being present. You quickly realise Officer Whiteside is not a nice character. He radios for his deputy to come and get the children and take them to a safe place.

As she sees her children being taken from her in a police car, her thoughts turn to the past 18 months and we get some insight as to why she left her husband and also the fact that in the past she had a history of substance abuse.

I don’t want to give too much away here but when Audra is taken to town the Deputy’s car isn’t there. Aura keeps asking for them but after she is processed and taken to a cell on asking again where her children are, the officer’s reply is “What children?”

Now the real nightmare begins. Audra is totally alone. When she is allowed to phone, she phones the ‘friend’ in California she is told not to contact her again. It gets worse, the authorities suspect she has harmed the children and hidden their bodies. The investigation gets very serious. The FBI’s Child Abduction response deployment team arrive. Someone leaks details of her medical history. The press get hold of the story and it’s all over the television. However someone called Danny sees the news reports and realises he has a similar story to tell: missing child, wife blamed, wife committed. No one had really listened to his thoughts on what had happened. He becomes part of the story too.

The story switches between what is happening to Audra and what is happening to the children. There is also a conversation happening in an internet private members forum and you just know something very bad is being planned. The pace is very good. There is a good balance of the different threads, a race against time, some twists. We get enough back story to make sense of the present. There are some strong characters, both good and bad. Audra’s past has made her stronger and a survivor, but there are a few moments when you feel it would be so easy for her to give in. There is also a wonderful sense of location. Heat and dust, a dying town, closed mine, dry riverbed, empty properties. You get the picture. It’s a well written story.

The story really grabbed me. It’s tense and the pace doesn’t really let up. I read it mostly in one sitting. I didn’t want to put it down. I managed to finish it around 1.30 am. The best kind of book  

I had intended to hold back this post until nearer publication date however Here and Gone is available now in ebook format. The hardcover version will be available later this summer.

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Want You Gone by Chris Brookmyre

#BlogTour : I’m so excited to be reviewing this book on publication day and would like to thank Grace Vincent of Little, Brown UK for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.  It’s two firsts for me –  it’s the first time I’ve been part of a blog tour and I’m the first stop. 

#WantYouGone @cbrookmyre @LittleBrownUK



What if all your secrets were put online? Sam Morpeth is growing up way too fast, left to fend for a younger sister with learning difficulties when their mother goes to prison and watching her dreams of university evaporate. But Sam learns what it is to be truly powerless when a stranger begins to blackmail her online, drawing her into a trap she may not escape alive. Who would you turn to? Meanwhile, reporter Jack Parlabane has finally got his career back on track, but his success has left him indebted to a volatile source on the wrong side of the law. Now that debt is being called in, and it could cost him everything. What would you be capable of? Thrown together by a common enemy, Sam and Jack are about to discover they have more in common than they realise – and might be each other’s only hope.


Want You Gone is another wonderfully entertaining thriller from Chris Brookmyre, in the Jack Parlabane series.  Chris is a brilliant writer and this time we are led into the world of hackers, cyber crime, fraud and corporate espionage.

The book starts with what looks like two separate stories (or three if you count the cyber attack on the bank), one told by Sam Morpeth, a teenage girl who is becoming overwhelmed with the responsibility of looking after her younger sister with learning difficulties. Things get worse when she’s told she can’t claim benefits because she is in full time education. No one seems to be listening. In the evenings when her sister is asleep she spends her time in online chat rooms to escape her harsh reality.

In the ‘second’ story, investigative reporter Jack Parlabane is in London having been invited there for an interview with Broadwave, an online news site. Could this be an opportunity to get his career back on track? While he’s there, there is a major cyber attack on RSGN Bank. Parlabane recognises the trademark of a group of hackers called Uninvited and contacts a hacker who goes by the name Buzzkill with whom he has had dealings in the past, in the hope of getting some inside information on the hack for a story. Jack has no idea who Buzzkill is, he’s never discovered his real identity nor actually spoken to him and he doesn’t particularly want to owe him any favour but he gets some quotes and writes a piece for Broadwave.

Sam’s situation then suddenly deteriorates further when she is hacked by a blackmailer who seems to know everything about her and is threatening to reveal things from her past that could lead to her going to jail. The blackmailer is demanding that she steal a prototype device from company. Having read Jack Parlabane’s story about the attack on the Bank she attempts to contact him to seek his help.

The two soon find themselves involved in the dark world of cyber-crime: hacking, breaching security systems, corporate espionage, all the while trying to identify the blackmailer who calls himself Zodiac. They also find themselves having to ‘disappear’ after a body is found on premises where Jack had gained entry having previously hacked the software that controlled access.

Despite some of the things Sam has done, she comes across as a good character and I had a lot of sympathy for her. I also like Jack Parlabane despite his, at times, rather dubious past when his actions in pursuit of the truth of a story sometimes led to him stepping over the line. The two characters worked well together. I also got the feeling there was another connection between Jack and Sam waiting to be revealed.

The first part of the book moves along at steady pace but is never boring. It’s not long before the action really starts and then the pace really ramps up until the conclusion. Sam tells her story in first person voice. Jack’s story is narrated in the third person. The dialogue is good and there is an exciting immediacy. As I read I could see the story playing out in my head and I got very engrossed.  There are a few surprising twists. For me, it quickly became a real page turner.   Wonderful stuff!

Publication date:  20 April 2017

Author’s website:  www.brookmyre.co.uk


[My thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown UK for an ARC and to Grace Vincent of Little Brown UK for inviting me to take part in the blog tour]

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Blue Light Yokohama – Nicolás Obregón



Setagaya ward, Tokyo
Inspector Kosuke Iwata, newly transferred to Tokyo’s homicide department, is assigned a new partner and a secondhand case.

Blunt, hard as nails and shunned by her colleagues, Assistant Inspector Noriko Sakai is a partner Iwata decides it would be unwise to cross.

A case that’s complicated – a family of four murdered in their own home by a killer who then ate ice cream, surfed the web and painted a hideous black sun on the bedroom ceiling before he left in broad daylight. A case that so haunted the original investigator that he threw himself off the city’s famous Rainbow Bridge.

Carrying his own secret torment, Iwata is no stranger to pain. He senses the trauma behind the killer’s brutal actions. Yet his progress is thwarted in the unlikeliest of places.

Fearing corruption among his fellow officers, tracking a killer he’s sure is only just beginning and trying to put his own shattered life back together, Iwata knows time is running out before he’s taken off the case or there are more killings . . .


I’m not sure if it is coincidence or whether I am subconsciously travelling the world via new titles but recently I have read novels set in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and now Japan (and the next one on my reading list is set in India!)

I heard about Blue Light Yokohama via an email and the description intrigued me, especially since the book was inspired by true events.

Inspector Kosuke Iwata had been signed off work for a while and on his return is transferred to Tokyo’s Homicide Department. He is allocated a new partner, Noriko Sakai, and given a secondhand case where a Korean family of four had been murdered in their own home, complicated by the fact that the original investigator had committed suicide a few days earlier.

It soon becomes clear that both Iwata and Sakai have their own issues. Snippets of Iwata’s troubled, painful, past are slowly revealed. Sakai comes across as hard but efficient. She doesn’t mix with her colleagues and some of them try to give her a hard time.

When they start investigating the brutal murders it looks like there could have been a ritualistic element to them but no real clues.

When more cases turn up, Iwata thinks they may have a serial killer, but they get little support from the bosses. Apart from the Korean family, there just doesn’t seem to be anything linking the victims. As they investigate further Iwata deals with bullying, corruption, incompetence and his own demons. It also appears that someone is out to destroy his career.

Nicolás Obregón sets a wonderful scene and although I have never been to Tokyo, I felt a sense of being there, even the bleak places.

It’s quite a complex story because of the references to Iwata’s recent past, and also his childhood/adolescence, as well as the present, but I found I was able to follow it. Initially I had some trouble with the unfamiliar Japanese names and places but you get used to that. I liked the ending and for me it was a real page-turner.

Is it different to any other police procedural/crime thriller set somewhere else? Yes, I believe it is. I felt I got a glimpse of some aspect of Japanese life. Whether it is an accurate portrayal, I don’t know, but it makes for a good debut novel.

Author’s webpage is here.

My thanks to NetGalley and the UK publishers Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for an advance copy.

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The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni


When a woman’s body is discovered submerged in a crab pot in the chilly waters of Puget Sound, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with a tough case to untangle. Before they can identify the killer, Tracy and her colleagues on the Seattle PD’s Violent Crimes Section must figure out who the victim is. Her autopsy, however, reveals she may have gone to great lengths to conceal her identity. So who was she running from?

After evidence surfaces that their Jane Doe may be a woman who suspiciously disappeared months earlier, Tracy is once again haunted by the memory of her sister’s unsolved murder. Dredging up details from the woman’s past leads to conflicting clues that only seem to muddy the investigation. As Tracy begins to uncover a twisted tale of brutal betrayal and desperate greed, she’ll find herself risking everything to confront a killer who won’t go down without a deadly fight.


I’m a fan of Robert Dugoni’s books, having discovered him through NetGalley.

I like his writing style. His books seem to have a bit of substance – a good balance of scene setting, characters, dialogue and importantly, as far as I am concerned, a well-written, entertaining story. This one is no exception.

The Trapped Girl is the fourth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series. Tracy is a strong character, a homicide detective in the Seattle Police Department and she leads a good team. In the previous books, she’s had problems with her boss, Captain Johnny Nolasco. They really don’t like each other and in the past he has made life difficult for Tracy but this time round, we see a slightly softer, more mature side to Tracy and while she is still disagreeing with her boss, she’s trying a different approach. Her personal life also seems more settled.

Tracy and her colleague Kins are called out to a body found near Cormorant Cove, not far from Tracy’s home. A high school student who is out crabbing illegally in Puget Sound caught more than he bargained for when he pulled up a crab pot with a young woman’s body in it. It turned out the victim had facial implants of the kind to change her appearance and by tracing the serial numbers to the manufacturer, eventually got a name from the plastic surgeon who had carried out the procedure – but little else. Lynn Hoff had paid in cash, and had requested that she be given all the photographs taken.

Further investigation leads them to believe Lynn Hoff did not want to be found and had never been reported as missing. No history, a fake social security number, no employment, no phone, nothing.

But then the story takes another twist. Tracy obtains Lynn Hoff’s drivers licence and the photo is passed around. She is contacted by a ranger based in Mount Rainier National Park. He believes the woman is someone who went missing, presumed dead, in unusual circumstances on the mountain, except he says her name is Andrea Strickland.

Just as Tracy’s team are starting to get somewhere, they are ordered to hand the case over to Pierce County who had investigated Andrea Strickland’s disappearance from Mount Rainier. Tracy wasn’t happy about this particularly since she considered their detective, Stan Fields, had carried out a pretty sloppy investigation into the circumstances surrounding Andrea Strickland’s disappearance. So of course Tracy being Tracy, she carries on investigating (just a little) after complying with the order to hand over the case.

Some of the chapters in the book are in the voice of Andrea Strickland (in journal form) so you get a lot of background as to what was happening with her work, her marriage, her husband, her friends, a few months earlier, all adding to the mystery and throwing up possible suspects.

It’s a complex plot but written so well that it is not difficult to follow. There are great twists and turns. I thought I had sussed it out, but I didn’t get it quite right. For a while it looked like I was going to be close, but then there was another twist. Wonderful stuff. Definitely a page-turner.

Although The Trapped Girl is fourth in a series, it can be read as a stand-alone.

My thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for providing an ARC.

Author’s website:  www.robertdugoni.com.

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