#Review The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by @stu_turton 5* #NewRelease #DebutAuthor #CrimeFiction @BloomsburyRaven @BloomsburyBooks #EPIC #DebutNovel

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The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Synopsis:

‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

My review:

When I finished this novel, I did casually comment on social media that the novel was ‘like playing Cluedo on acid’. Now, whilst I still stand by this short peculiar assessment. It is simply because, there is so much to process, and I read this in 24hrs. My brain was exhausted from the constant twists and turns. I still cannot even begin to fathom, just how, the writer put it all together. The flow of the novel and pace of the plot fits perfectly. I am AMAZED this is a debut novel. I will be pre-ordering ANYTHING the author produces next.
Purely to see what he concocts next, as this novel was original and epic on every level!

The novel itself, is beautiful and the artwork on the inside covers, makes be glad I own a physical copy. There is an invitation to the ball and a list of guests and household staff.
A who’s who of Blackheath is very important, as you’ll need to keep up!

We are made aware from the invite that guests must refrain from discussions of Thomas Hardcastle and Charlie Culver, of tragic events in the past. This instantly grabbed my interest.
What are the tragic events of the past?
What significance do they have to the ball?

‘How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home’

The novel opens on day one. Our protagonist awakes smelling of cigarettes, alcohol and body odour. He is aware of a woman fleeing and in need of help, with a killer on her heels. The killer hands him a compass and tells him to ‘head east’. When he arrives at the house, we will come to know as Blackheath. He is disorientated and dishevelled. He enquires of the woman, who he vaguely remembers as Anna. But no one is aware of such a guest. Who is Anna? Is she still in danger? Or dead?

‘The dead cannot expect a debt from the living’

Once the man is brought into Blackheath he uncovers his identity. His name is Dr Sebastian Bell, yet he has not recollection of this man. Even his own reflection is alien to him. It is a puzzle within a puzzle. Struggling with the effects of amnesia, he urges the guests to find the missing woman alive or dead. Whilst Dr Richard ‘Dickie’ Acker is summoned to attend the nasty bang to the head he has received. They also find defensive knife wounds on his arms.
What happened out there? Why is Dr Bell here? What does it all mean?

‘I’m a man in purgatory’

It isn’t long until Dr Bell is startled by a masked man, who we later come to know as the ‘plague doctor’. He warns him to be wary of the footman. Then he finds a note from Anna, arranging a meeting and offering to explain everything. Despite the two personalities inside Dr Bell, he decides to stay and solve the mystery…..

‘That’s the beauty of corrupt men, you can always rely on them to be corrupt’

Eventually we learn who Dr Bell is, his role at the ball. We also learn of the mystery surrounding Thomas Hardcastle and Charlie Culver and the lake where it all took place. The ball is being held on the 19th anniversary of the loss of Thomas Hardcastle. But it is so much more than meets the eye. With such a bizarre bunch of guests, this is going to be one hell of a party!

‘Wealth is poisonous to the soul and my parents have been wealthy a very long time’ Evelyn Hardcastle

The plague doctor returns and explains the situation of Blackheath to Dr Bell, only this time he is Donald Davies. He offers him a proposition……
‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out’
Through the plague doctor’s proposition, we come to understand just how Blackheath operates…..

‘I won’t return willingly to a madman’s game’

Our protagonist Aidan Bishop, must solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. He will be able to enter various hosts, during his time at Blackheath. But never on the same day. He doesn’t have an unlimited number of hosts, he only has one per day. He isn’t aware of which host he will enter next and will have to fight their primal urges to behave in their own way. Every time he falls asleep, he enters a new host. There is no stopping or escape.
The game is well and truly afoot!

‘I know this isn’t the afterlife. Hell would have fewer servants and better furnishings’

Whilst attempting to solve the murder of Evelyn, Aidan warms to her personality. He then becomes focused on the dangerous task, of trying to prevent the murder ever happening at all….

‘Evelyn’s kind and gentle, and she’s been away nineteen years, who’d want to harm her now?’

Aidan will have to navigate other hosts trapped in the game, the violent and psychopathic footman and the illusive Anna. If he has any hope of solving the mystery and freeing himself from this eternal game of murder mystery.

‘Nobody has friends in Blackheath’ – Plague doctor

The various hosts Aidan finds himself within, are brilliantly written. They are (as said above) a unique bunch of characters. From the alcoholics, the drug users and the grabby handed perverts. Aidan must adapt to their attributes and friendship circles, to find clues.

‘You won’t get far in this house with sentiment’ – Stanwin

‘What kind of mind makes theatre of murder?’

As much as I was drawn to the mystery and scheming surrounding the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. I was also still desperate to find out the mystery of the past. Early on, I was quite convinced there must be a link between the two and the writer did not disappoint!

‘Something evil happened here and it haunts the lake still’

The plague doctor, pops up every now and then. Usually to add a new twist into the plot and steer Aidan onto further clues he had previously missed or overlooked. You never truly know who’s side he’s on. Is he working to help Aidan uncover the mystery? Or leading him to mere distractions?

‘Too little information and you’re blind, too much and you’re blinded’

As you read you are desperately trying to unravel the plot. I loved the old-fashioned style era, the time hopping and the various spin off mysteries. The scheming, plotting and betrayal are brilliantly woven amongst all the guests. You never know if Aidan can trust anyone or if he can even trust himself……

A fantastic debut novel and an incredible novel to speed read! I would recommend to all bookworms, from those who read hundreds, to those who read just a few novels a year. The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle is a cracking novel, not to be missed! 5*

‘He means to kill us, though not before he’s had his fun’

ST
Stuart Turton
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#BlogTour #Review A Darker State by @djy_writer 5* @BonnierZaffre @bonnier_publish #NewRelease #CrimeFiction #Germany #1970s

Happy publication day David Young!

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A Darker State by David Young
Synopsis:

For the Stasi, it’s not just the truth that gets buried . . .

The body of a teenage boy is found weighted down in a lake. Karin Müller, newly appointed Major of the People’s Police, is called to investigate. But her power will only stretch so far, when every move she makes is under the watchful eye of the Stasi.

Then, when the son of Müller’s team member goes missing, it quickly becomes clear that there is a terrifying conspiracy at the heart of this case, one that could fast lead Müller and her young family into real danger.

Can she navigate this complex political web and find the missing boy, before it’s too late?

My review:

For the Stasi. It’s not just the truth that gets buried . . .

Under the secrecy and fear of a communist state, a murderer lurks. The prologue opens with one armed Polish dog walker Kazimierz Wojcik; stumbling across, the rat covered dead body of a young male, in a dark lake. It is within this terrifying political climate, that the man, even fears calling in the dead body to the police….

‘Keep you head down; keep out of trouble. That’s how Kazimierz had survived all these years, and he wasn’t about to change’

It is an eerie prologue that really sets the tone and pace of this historical novel. The author has done an outstanding job, of bringing 1976 East Berlin alive!
The novel is set within six months of 1976. With alternate chapters alternating the various months. The novel has many factual and historically accurate references. But the central theme is the skilfully woven, crime fiction plot.
One dead boy and another missing.
Things are about to get difficult for tough police major Karin Muller…….

Karin Muller is the newly appointed major of the serious crimes department in Keibelstrasse. Working alongside her deputy Werner Tilsner. Each having received double promotions. But is there more to this career fast tracking than meets the eye?

At the crime scene the pathologist quickly determines the body to have suffered fatal asphyxiation. There is a bizarre tattoo on the body and a sock stuffed down the throat of the victim. The police are left with more questions than leads.

The novel then jumps to six months previously. Where we meet Markus a bullied young student. We become aware that he is the son of a police man. He is helpless in his efforts to defend himself. Until one-day Oskar steps in and fends off the bullies. Having found a new and only friend, Markus believes his life is about to become a lot less lonely!

The body from the lake is finally identified as Dominik Nadel. Where the police officers believe his identification may throw up some clues. It only leads to further mysteries. Dominik appears to have led a sheltered life. He works at the local steel works and has hobbies such as football and a motorbike club. It is only when Karin appeals to the coach’s gentler side. Then he reveals crucial secrets surrounded Dom’s lifestyle and the motor bike club he is a member of…….

Karin’s personal life has changed, this is her first case back after her return from her twin’s birth. She is exhausted and blames herself for her long working hours away from her children. It is during this time, that the cracks begin to show in her relationship with Emil. He is distant and cold towards her. With everything Karin has going on, she does not even feel welcomed in her own home.

The case continues at a slow burning pace, but the alternative chapters keep you on your toes. We learn more about Dom’s activities prior to his death. Whilst also watching Markus fall in love for the first time.

The novel deals with some exceptionally moving themes. The manipulation of individuals, to achieve state goals. Also, the vile abuses a country can carry out on its own citizens. I think the author is very brave to address the concept within the historical era. It cannot have been an easy task.
But he has delivered a thought-provoking and complex 5* novel.

Karin Muller is an awesome protagonist and I look forward to the next novels in the Stasi series.

DY
David Young
Authors Links:
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My #Review Field Of Prey by @J_Sandford 5* @simonschusterUK #CrimeFiction #Series #LucasDavenport by @annebonnybook

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Field Of Prey by John Sandford
Synopsis:

When a county deputy is called out to an abandoned farmhouse in the cornfields of Minnesota by a couple of terrified teenagers, he finds that a body has been stuffed down a cistern. And then another, and another.

By the time Lucas Davenport is called in, the police are up to fifteen bodies, and counting. And when Lucas begins to investigate, he makes some disturbing discoveries of his own. The victims have been killed over a great many years, one every summer, regular as clockwork. How could this have happened without anybody noticing?

Because one thing was for sure: The killer has to live close by. He is probably even someone they see every day…

My review:

This novel is #24 in the Lucas davenport series. But the first I have ever read! Needless to say, it will NOT be my last! This novel is extraordinarily dark, the killers involved nightmarish! In fact, I did actually have nightmares whilst reading this novel!
I am a fan of multiple genre’s, which includes the horror genre.
You’d think the blurb from Stephen King, would have given me the hint!
But no, I went in assuming a typical crime fiction novel. What I got was one of the creepiest crime fiction reads; since I read The Poet by Michael Connelly!!!!!

The novel opens with the caption ‘years ago’, which we learn is the killers kidnapping their fifth victim to be Heather Jorgenson. However, Heather isn’t as easy to abduct as their previous four victims. She makes a dramatic escape leaving one of the pair severely wounded! The killers are identified to the reader as R-A and Horn.
The chapters from their perspective, reminds me of staying up too late and watching the true crime channel.
Truly horrifying!

R-A and Horn’s killing spree, has gone virtually unheard of. That is until two teen love birds, stumble across an old cistern stuffed full of corpses!
When the body count reaches 15+ the bureau of criminal apprehension is brought into the case and with them is Lucas Davenport.

The crime scene is located in the middle of nowhere; with only small towns of minimal populations scattered nearby. The local cops want in, on the investigation. But it is CBA agent Bob Shaffer who is put in-charge of the case. With an intense investigation and heavy media scrutiny. The ‘Black hole of Goodhue’ needs all the cops to work together to apprehend the killers.

The police make a start by identifying the victims; which takes considerable time given the varying levels of decomposition. The victims are all female and of approximately the same age. But they have nothing in common, except natural blonde hair. How is the killer picking his victims? Is he an opportunist killer? Or is he stalking his victims?
One thing is for certain, the killer knows the area. To know the area and the buried old cistern so well, he/she must be a local. This puts fear into the local community and amps up the media frenzy over the case. When weeks go by, with each clue leading to a dead end. The media begin to turn on the cops investigating the case. Bringing up past cases, indiscretions and their professional records.
The cops need to solve this case, or their careers are in jeopardy!

Local sheriff deputy Catrin Mattsson, is known for her feisty attitude, but also her competency as a cop. After initially butting heads with Lucas, they begin to work together to solve the case.

I really liked Mattsson, she is tough and whilst the other cops wallow in low morale; she is consistently coming up with new ways to solve the case.
The novel has so much depth, it dips into Lucas’s previous cases; before he was seconded to the black hole investigation. The novel felt a very accurate portrayal of a cop’s daily life. Lucas also brings in, Virgil Flowers to help with the case. Although in this novel, he plays a background character. I got the distinct impression that the Virgil flowers novels, would be just as good as this series.

The case continues at a slow burning pace, but there are constant anomalies thrown in to keep the readers interest. The case in question maybe slowed down, but the action itself is not! Eventually the body count is held at 21 skulls. But when some are discovered to having been grave robbed, the case takes a sickening twist. Why would a killer, steal skulls from graves? Where did he get the skulls from? The grave robbing leads to local cemeteries and Shaffer takes off on his own to investigate further…….

When Shaffer goes missing, the tension in the novel reaches critical levels. I was absolutely hooked to the pages! The cops are now not only looking for an experienced serial killer; but a potential cop killer too…….

There are so many themes in this novel. It is impossible to cover them all in a review without spoiling the novel itself. But trust me, this is one hell of a creepy read! The killers begin to taunt the cops and plant leads; determined to control the investigation right up until the very dark brutal ending!
American crime fiction at its finest. Highly recommended! 5*

JS
John Sandford
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My #BlogTour #Review #RestlessCoffins by @EllingtonWright M.P. Wright 5* GENIUS @bwpublishing #NewRelease #CrimeFiction #JTEllington

*I received an arc copy via the publisher in return for an honest review*

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Restless Coffins by M.P. Wright 
Synopsis:

A HAUNTED MAN. A BURIED PAST. A JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS.
‘Brother, a dead body can’t run from a coffin, but their spirit sure as hell can try.’
1967, Bristol. Life is tough for JT Ellington, ex-cop and reluctant private eye.
He’s still trading in favours, helping those scared of the police or trying to stay one step ahead of the law.

But when news arrives of a tragedy that’s unfolded thousands of miles away, JT’s life gets even tougher. He needs to journey home to Barbados to pay his final respects – but first he must travel to New York, where his cousin Vic is boss of a criminal empire.

On Harlem’s mean streets, JT is fast entangled with Evangeline – a smooth as velvet Black Panther – along with Pigfoot, a Bajan too flash with his knife. As the underworld draws him in, JT discovers the extent of Vic’s criminal activities –
a web of violence that stretches to Barbados and back, and connects him to the deaths of JT’s beloved wife and daughter.

Embroiled in a world of drugs, corruption, voodoo and the legacy of slavery, can JT escape the demons of his past as he returns to the island of his birth?

My review:

A haunted man.
A buried past.
A journey into darkness.

“What you want, ain’t always what you deserve”
Old Bajan saying

The novel is the third JT Ellington novel in the series. I am a HUGE fan of the protagonist! A Bajan enquiry agent who fled his previous life in Barbados, for a new life in Bristol. The previous two novels help you understand the background and character depth. It almost feels as though the series has been progressing to JT’s return to sunny Barbados and the revenge he so desperately seeks. But no one could have foreseen the brutal and harsh storyline that is, Restless Coffins…….

‘The traitors path leads to the fire’

The novel opens in 1934, a young JT with his younger sister Bernice. As they set off for a day of fishing at Ginger Bay, St Philip Parish, Barbados. They share the usual childhood and sibling rivalry; mocking each other as a sign of affection. The description is brilliant and really sets the bar for authors skill at describing a scene to perfection. Even the part where a young JT and Bernice stumble across the body of a dead police man……..

This is the first novel in the series, to offer an insight into JT’s childhood experiences. Memories, passages and details are drip fed throughout the entire novel. It offers up a great insight into how JT became the man he is. JT is often portrayed as a brooding character, a deep thinker.
In this novel we learn exactly why, he thinks first and acts later.
The heavy price JT has paid for his past actions, weighs heavy on his shoulders. Following him, haunting him and refusing to let go…

‘Sealed coffins could be opened to reveal the wonders of the undead’

In the present-day JT is now living on a narrow boat at Bristol harbour. When he is informed by his postman Harry Parkin; that he has delivered a telegram to Vic’s gym, JT’s workplace. He has no idea who or why anyone would send him a telegram. Just a gut feeling, that it must be bad news.

“Boy, yuh ‘member nuthin’ travels faster than bad news”

The telegram is from his cousin Vic, informing him of his sister Bernice’s death. JT is devastated with the news, after already surviving so much pain. He must now return to Barbados to settle Bernice’s affairs. He momentarily reminisces about his loving mother Cora and cruel father Clifford. We learn about Cora’s previous employment, working for the Monroe family. A family whose history is entwined with the Ellington families,
for all the wrong reasons.
JT then receives a call from a mysterious young woman named Evangeline Laveau. She claims to be working on Vic’s behalf and gives JT the details of his travel arrangements. Before he travels onto Barbados, he must meet with Vic in New York.

JT arrives at JFK airport to be met by Evangeline, Clefus Hopkins and Pigfoot. They arrange to drive him to Harlem and in-particular the MAME – Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal church. Where JT is handed a strange tiny coffin by a witch doctor named Obeah. The whole situation is eerie and I was desperate to understand how this voodoo element would play into the main theme of the plot.

Evangeline’s back story is fully explored. I really like her as a character. She is feisty, strong and yet raw and vulnerable in moments. She does her best to assist JT in his pursuit of Vic and transportation to Barbados. But whatever they do, any clues they come across, all paths lead back to Conrad Monroe. If you are new to the series, when you uncover why JT hates Conrad Monroe so deeply, it will shock you to your core…

‘A ghost from my past whom I feared and hated in equal measure’

Eventually JT and Evangeline make their way to New Orleans. Where Evangeline warns JT of the cultural differences between NY and the deep south. She warns him of the Jim Crow laws and the barefaced racism that is allowed to thrive unchallenged. I felt concerned for JT, although he had experienced considerable racism in the UK, now he was entering KKK territory!

‘I knew what it was like to live inside my own black skin and realised that my colour dictated how most white folk treated me’ JT

The dialogue in the novel is superb and adds to the already diverse and cultured themes. There is a scene in chapter 25, that rips your heart clean out! The author does not hold back, in terms of showing the violence and vicious behaviour that goes hand in hand with devout racism. It is at this point that I longed for JT to be reunited with Vic.
One man can only suffer, so much pain!

‘Victor Ellington is an enigma’

When JT and Vic are finally reunited. There are many unanswered questions and JT must face up to some extremely harsh truths. Vic informs him of his full intentions for vengeance upon their return to Barbados. “Tings, they gonna git bloody when we git home, yuh know that, don’t yuh”. It is at this point that JT fully understands his cousin’s plans.

‘When you know a man like Vic, the shadow of death was never too far away from your soul’

The novel builds and builds; with layer upon layer of detail from the past to the present. Eventually building to the ultimate showdown. But what peace of mind, will revenge bring to JT? Does he have the darkness within him to pursue it?

JT is an emotionally deep protagonist and Restless Coffins, deals with those whom have pained him the most. The Bajan history is handled with intelligence and care to ensure a thought-provoking read. The characters are iconic, and all have essential backstory’s. The historical accuracy, dialogue and characters are all great examples of expert writing.
An exceptional novel 5* Genius!

“People dying all the time, JT… This time the right folk gonna be headin’ fo’ the grave” – Vic

m-p-wright
M.P. Wright
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My #Review 29 Seconds by @TMLoganAuthor 5* @BonnierZaffre @bonnier_publish #NewRelease #CrimeFiction by @annebonnybook #TimesUp

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29 Seconds By T.M. Logan
Synopsis:

Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear . . .

When Sarah rescues a young girl in trouble, she expects nothing in return. But her act of bravery puts a powerful and dangerous man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid – in the only way he knows how.

He offers Sarah a way to solve a desperate situation with her intolerable boss. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that will make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No comeback. No chance of being found out.

All it takes is a 29 second phone call.

Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?

My review:

The novel has an incredibly timely and appropriate theme. With the #TimesUp movement in full swing. Women are no longer willing to stay silent and deal with the abusive behaviour of men whom hold all the power. I think the author has done a fantastic job, with a very sensitive subject matter. The female victims aren’t weak or timid, but strong, feisty and relatable women. That is what makes the threat of this type of abuse, so terrifying. It can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time!

The basis of this novel, is that female victim Sarah has an opportunity to fight back! After saving the life of a young child, the mysterious father offers her a once in the lifetime chance to have revenge.
The conditions are simple, the execution will be deadly,
but does Sarah have what it takes?

‘It was a deal with the Devil’

The rules of the deal are simple. Sarah has 72hrs to provide a name, she cannot tell anyone and there’s no changing her mind, once she has given the man a name……….

The novel then jumps slightly back in time, to show the build-up to the event. Also, to show the reader exactly why Sarah has a name on the tip of her tongue.
Two weeks earlier Sarah is at a works event. She works at Queen Anne’s university and her boss the ‘bulletproof prof’ Alan is the problem. He terrorises the female employees with unwanted advances, verbal intimidation and will stop at nothing to show them the power he holds over them, their careers and mental stability. Alan made my skin crawl with his sleazy commentary and grabby hands!

‘I love you playing hard to get. You’re such a tease, Sarah’ – Alan

Oh, but why doesn’t she quit? Why doesn’t she report her boss to HR? Why does she accept the unwanted ‘attention’? I hear you say!
The truth is simple and brilliantly explained by the author. If you ask any woman, has she ever known such a man, the answer will be resounding YES! It may be your boss, co-worker, teacher or in my case the manager of the college residential building I lived in at just 16yrs old. These men use their power/authority over women/young girls to manipulate situations, where they can then paint themselves as the victim. It carries a stigma and victims are less likely to be believed, so therefore are less likely to speak out and seek help. All I know, in my case, it wasn’t me, that unlocked the creepy old man’s college dorm room door, to watch him sleep!
It is for this and many other reasons, I found Sarah’s story completely believable and relatable. I also know, without a shadow of a doubt, even just at 16 years old. I’d haven given the man, a name!

The plot of the novel then shifts to Sarah’s predicament. Will she give a name? Who is the mysterious Volkov? What will happen to her boss if she gives his name to Volkov?
Dr Sarah Haywood may hold a PHD and be an incredibly intelligent woman. But when it comes to making this choice, she struggles with her internal conscience. I will admit, as the reader, I willed her to give the name.

After being passed up for promotion yet again, and given a choice of a proposal of sex for promise of promotion in the future. Sarah suddenly snaps! She makes the call and changes all their lives….

The novel has a feel of the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie, Strangers On A Train. With two previously unknown individuals making a pact, one that will lead to murder.
But the author has had an even better idea, which leads to a superb ending!

This novel has a cleverly planned plot, the difficult theme throughout the novel is described and articulated exceptionally well. I wish the author every success with the release and applaud him for tackling this theme in this manner! 5*

TM
T.M. Logan
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