Anne Bonny #BookReview The Darkest Place by @SpainJoanne 5* Tom Reynolds #4 #NewRelease #CrimeFiction @QuercusBooks Some secrets are meant to stay on the island. . .

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The Darkest Place by Jo Spain
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Christmas day, and DCI Tom Reynolds receives an alarming call. A mass grave has been discovered on Oileán na Caillte, the island which housed the controversial psychiatric institution St. Christina’s. The hospital has been closed for decades and onsite graves were tragically common. Reynolds thinks his adversarial boss is handing him a cold case to sideline him.

But then it transpires another body has been discovered amongst the dead – one of the doctors who went missing from the hospital in mysterious circumstances forty years ago. He appears to have been brutally murdered.

As events take a sudden turn, nothing can prepare Reynolds and his team for what they are about to discover once they arrive on the island . . .

My Review:

I am a huge fan of Jo Spain and the Tom Reynolds series. The Darkest Place is #4 in the series and by far the BEST so far! It can be read as a standalone; and will still be thoroughly enjoyed for its atmospheric location and dark themes of mental health treatment in the 1970s.

“Forty Years was too long to wait for somebody to come back from the dead”

The novel surrounds a cold case from 40yrs ago. The disappearance of a Doctor at St Christina’s, psychiatric institution on the Island of Oilean Na Caille. His wife Miriam Howe has waited every year with hope, time has literally stood still for this woman. When she receives a phone call from that a body has been discovered and, she may finally lay Conrad to rest.

The novel details the daily life at St Christina’s asylum in 1972. How the patients were often treated as inmates with little or no compassion or humanity. I felt the author had excelled herself with her detailed research into historical mental health abuses and The Darkest Place is as close to accurate as you are going to get!

‘Ireland had the highest number of people lost to asylums per capita, in the entire world’

DCI Tom Reynolds receives the information on Christmas day of the body discovered at the grounds of the asylum. The case then quickly becomes his personal obsession and he pushes family duty aside in the name of justice.

With no DNA match identified and the discovery of a doctor’s diary the case becomes more complex and heavily layered in mental health treatments a stigma.
‘Do not be lured into feeling sympathy for our patients’ – Diary entry

‘How terrifying this place must seem to the vulnerable people who arrive here involuntary’ – Diary entry

A cause of death is identified, and it points to murder. Then a mass grave is discovered, and it blows the case wide open!!!!!
What really happened at St Christina’s all those years ago?

‘Sometimes the patients can get manic’

When you discover some of the mental health crimes/conditions/sins such as homosexuality. You begin to realise how many of societies most vulnerable were systemically and inhumanely incarcerated and experimented upon. . .
‘You would never believe, in the outside world, how little it takes to cross the threshold from there to here’

The novel fully illustrates the bleak and unhappy life that occurred at the asylum. Prison like conditions and staff that pleasure in the discomfort of patients.
Then you discover the basement patients, were the worst cases were held. . .

There is an amazing twist at the end. But this novel really has it all, superb storytelling, deeply layered plot and terrifying accuracy. 5*

JS
Jo Spain
Twitter

***The Darkest Place is released tomorrow in Ebook format***
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Dark Inside by @Rod_WR 5* #CrimeFiction #HistoricalFiction #AmericanNoir In this town. No one is innocent #CharlieYates @FaberBooks

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The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds
My own copy
Synopsis:

1946, Texarkana: a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been sent to cover the story of a spate of brutal murders – young couples who’ve been slaughtered at a local date spot. Charlie finds himself drawn into the case by the beautiful and fiery Lizzie, sister to one of the victims, Alice – the only person to have survived the attacks and seen the killer up close.

But Charlie has his own demons to fight, and as he starts to dig into the murders he discovers that the people of Texarkana have secrets that they want kept hidden at all costs. Before long, Charlie discovers that powerful forces might be protecting the killer, and as he investigates further his pursuit of the truth could cost him more than his job…

Loosely based on true events, The Dark Inside is a compelling and pacy thriller that heralds a new voice in the genre. It will appeal to fans of RJ Ellory, Tom Franklin, Daniel Woodrell and True Detective.

My Review:

I am a HUGE historical fiction fan and I love American noir. That being said, this series was recommended to me by Liz Barnsley over at Liz Loves Books. I was stuck with a lost book mojo and spotted her review and praise for this series. Initially I was most drawn to the synopsis/plot in book #3. But I decided with the rate in which I read books and their only being 3 released so far, it would be best to start at the beginning. Which I am glad I did, as I now feel that I would have missed out on key pieces of the characterisation.

‘I arrived in town four days after the latest killing’ – Charlie

Our protagonist is a failing husband/reporter Charlie Yates. He doesn’t want this assignment and almost from the moment he arrives in town, it appears the town doesn’t want him either!

He is a veteran crime reporter of 15yrs experience but is currently being exiled due to internal issues at the paper. Someone wants him out the way, all the damn way to Texarkana. Something that doesn’t sit easy with Charlie, at all.

The first couple attacked in this series of brutal slayings are young couple Alice Anderson (17yrs) and Dwight Breems. Alice survives her injuries, but Dwights are fatal.
The second attack killed both Patty Sumer (17yrs) and war hero Edward Logan. Who is targeting these young couples? And why?

‘Someone knew what was happening – and why’

Jimmy Robinson is Charlies contact in Texarkana. He warns Charlie that the locals are devastated by the recent murders and that the local Sheriff’s are far from friendly.
Sheriff Bailey is holding several men at the local jail and it appears to be, just to appease the locals from worry.
There is no real link between these murders and the men being held.
Not forgetting this is an era in American history, where just your skin colour can be enough for suspicion.

Charlie seems to be the only person with the train of thought that the killer maybe an unhinged GI. A thought he knows he must keep to himself, with no credible link.
He attempts to speak to the surviving victim Alice at Pine Street hospital. But she is uncooperative. She accuses the local police of bullying and berating her.
She is distressed with virtually no memory of the attack.

Then the police release a statement allegedly from Alice stating that the killer is a black male. Charlie knows what this will mean for the local black population and becomes desperate to find the real culprit.

After another attack the local chamber of commerce offers a $20K reward, for capture of the killer. Now, every black man in Texarkana has a bounty on his head!
That doesn’t sit too well with Charlie either. The Charlie receives cryptic notes…….
‘Red River is the key. Pull the thread and it all unravels. Watch yourself’

When Alice goes missing, Charlie must work with her sister Lizzie to identify the killer. Lizzie insists that Alice was adamant in an admission to her, that the killer was a white male. But that the police refuse to listen to her.
The bond between Charlie and Lizzie grows, as the plot picks up its pace.
This is the perfect post-ww2 American noir 5*

RR
Rod Reynolds
Twitter

Anne Bonny #BookReview Halcyon by @Rio_Youers 5* Genius #Halcyon #Horror @TitanBooks ‘It is that INTENSE!!!!! But it is AWESOME!’

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Halcyon by Rio Youers
My own copy
Synopsis:

Nightmarishly compelling and flawlessly told horror for fans of Paul Tremblay and Joe Hill.
Halcyon is the answer for all Americans who want to escape, but paradise isn’t what it seems. A beautiful self-sustaining community made up of people who want to live without fear, crime, or greed, Halcyon is run by Valerie Kemp, aka Mother Moon, benevolent and altruistic on the outside, but hiding an unimaginable darkness inside. She has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing. And she believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure.
On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. He soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer and sets out to discover the truth, however terrible it might be, behind the island and its mysterious founder.

My Review:

I became aware of Rio Youers via the social media posts of Christopher Golden. I then saw a blurb on Halcyon from one of my author faves Sarah Pinborough. So, I knew I HAD to have this novel. I knew it would be dark and it is well, well, well, with the remit of the horror genre. But crikey bobs was I ill prepared! There were moments of just having to put it down, simply because it is so intense.
I also found myself re-laying the whole plot to my husband (he is a non-reader, I know, it is gross! Lol). My husband was in complete agreement with me, that this would make an incredibly sinister horror movie.
There are moments where it briefly reminded me of the TV show the American Horror Story and also elements of the true crimes of Charlie Manson.
It is that INTENSE!!!!! But it is AWESOME!

The novel opens with 10yr old Edith Lovegrove and her sister Shirley (15yrs). We become aware Edith is experiencing extreme night terrors. Her parents are unsure if this is a phase or if there is something more sinister to this. I immediately suspected that she was gifted, but is this a talent for good or bad?

‘The man with no hands is crying’ – Edith

There is a backstory of Garrett Riley, who will become the infamous ‘Buffalo Bomber’. We learn of his dark and troubled past and what made him perceptible to the brainwashing of a cult with an ulterior agenda etc.
When Edith’s parents watch footage of the bombing on live TV. They witness a man with no hands crying.
It is then, that they come to believe Edith may harbour a gift for premonitions.

They contact various psychics and mediums and attempt to understand the world that Edith sees. But how do you navigate a world known for its charlatans and liars?
The Edith has visions of her mother’s death!!!!!!

Edith’s mother is the victim of a fatal school shooting massacre. It is then that Martin Lovegrove, the girls now widowed father starts to become disillusioned with life in modern day America. He starts seeking alternative ways of existing and he seeks peace. Time to grieve and to heal.

‘A better America’

This is how Martin is lured to the island of Halcyon. A hippie commune that promises peace in a tranquil location away from the constraints of a modern day and the relentless sufferings etc.
As much as I did feel this was a ‘sanctuary or suicide’ mission. I could completely empathise with Martin’s need for escape. After all, who of us doesn’t just want to often retreat from the world and live in a cabin in the woods etc.
*We might feel safer in doing so, if we don’t take Rio Youer’s novels lol

At Halcyon there is a matriarch type character, called Mother Moon. Shirley instantly bonds with her and despite her initial reluctance accepts their new way of life. Edith however, is not so easily convinced. Is this her gift? Or her angst/jealousy? This is a young girl with no mother, now feeling she is losing her older sister to the leader.

‘Education develops a woman. Always. Tribulation is different. It can unravel her, or give her armour’ – Mother Moon

The idea is for an introduction period of six weeks at Halcyon and if they want to leave at the end, they can with no problems whatsoever. Something Martin doesn’t see a huge issue with. He is persistently warned via his friend Jimmy, about the reputation of such ‘retreats’. Nevertheless, the family arrive and become settled.

What happens at Halcyon, stays at Halcyon.
I will not be telling anymore, of this story! Just know that it is gripping and horror-filled!
When Mother Moon’s backstory is finally revealed, my jaw was on the floor!!!!!!
WOW, JUST WOW!
5* Genius

RY
Rio Youers
Website
Twitter

Anne Bonny #BookReview A Mother’s Grace by @RosieGoodwin 4* #Victorian #saga #HistoricalFiction @BonnierZaffre

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A Mother’s Grace by Rosie Goodwin
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Tuesday’s child is full of grace . . .

Warwickshire, 1910.

Pious young Grace Kettle escapes the world of her unsavoury and bullying father to train to be a nun. But when she meets the dashing and devout Father Luke her world is turned upside down. Her faith is tested and she is driven to make a scandalous and life-changing choice – one she may well spend the rest of her days seeking forgiveness for . . .

My Review:

A Mother’s Grace opens in 1891, Nuneaton and tells the life story of Grace Kettle. A story of overcoming adversity against the odds. It was perfect weekend reading.
I love a lazy Sunday with a saga on the sofa!

December 1891, Madeline marries Judge Jacob Kettle it is the wedding night of nightmares! So early on, you get a real understanding of the vile atrocious man Jacob is. For Madeline it is a marriage of convenience to secure herself a future away from poverty. For Jacob it is a marriage of dominance and control.

By 1892 Jacob has inherited new property which also comes with new staff Mrs Batley, Mabel and Harry. The staff are the only friends Madeline will ever have. The also really brighten the novel, Mrs Batley pushes back against Jacob’s frugal and verbally abusive manner. But she can’t save Madeline who continues to be regularly verbally abused…..
“Speak when you are spoken to, woman” – Jacob

The novel constantly brings alive the era and even more so when baby Grace Victoria is finally born. With little or no help from physicians and Jacob away from home. Madeline is left weak from the birth and never fully recovers.
She is firmly told, that she must bare no more children.

June 1897, Grace is now a young girl and the apple of her father’s eye. Her mother remains weak from her birth, But Grace enjoys the time she gets to spend with her. Grace also has a nanny Betty Donovan, who enjoys teaching Grace about life outside the property. However, Grace’s father remains possessive and controlling of her time and attention. Which I began to worry would become an unhealthy fixation.

By July 1902 Grace is now 10yrs old and her father appears to resent her maturity and attempts to cajole her as if she were much younger. When Madeline notices this, she organises to send Grace to her Aunt Gertie’s in Wales on ‘holiday’.
It is merely a temporary fix.

But in Wales Grace thrives. Gone is the occasional spoiled little madam act. Grace enjoys the local nature, people and becomes fascinated by the local convent and Catholic faith.
It is ultimately this holiday that matures Grace well beyond her years. For which she will need, as from her 16th birthday, life for Grace changes rapidly. 4*

RG
Rosie Goodwin
Website
Twitter

Anne Bonny #BookReview Brothers In Blood by @ameranwar #NewRelease #CrimeFiction @dialoguebooks @LittleBrownUK ‘This is urban, this is diverse and this is brilliantly British! 5*’

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Brothers In Blood
Review Copy
Synopsis:

***WINNER OF THE CWA DEBUT DAGGER***

(Previously published as Western Fringes)

A Sikh girl on the run. A Muslim ex-con who has to find her. A whole heap of trouble.

Southall, West London. After being released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put the past behind him.

But when Zaq is forced to search for his boss’s runaway daughter, he quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.

With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?

My Review:

I was immediately drawn to this novel, due to its diverse characters and recognition via winning a top book award. The simple sentences of: A Sikh girl on the run, a Muslim ex-con and the location of Southall, West London.
Had me knowing this was going to be one hell of a read!

The novel opens with Zaq working on the building yard for Mr Brar, we meet his thuggish sons Parminder (Parm) and Rajinder (Raj). When Mr Brar blackmails Zaq into finding his daughter or going back to prison, by means of a ‘stitch up’. Zaq becomes and instant private investigator. The Brar brothers have a violent and nasty reputation in Southall, so the biggest struggle Zaq faces is if he can keep them off his back and out of his business, as he desperately attempts to locate the missing girl.

Surinder known as Rita, appears to have vanished due to threats of an arranged marriage. Zaq is unsure if this is by means of force and this adds depth to the surrounding drama and mystery. Is Rita a victim, fleeing her abusers? Rita is one of many young women and men, that are a new generation, within the Asian community, who may hold differing the values and beliefs to their elders such as parents and grandparents. They like Rita may reject the tradition of arranged marriage or similarly like Zaq may reject the notions of religion. I think this is interesting, on so many levels. It makes the novel perfect for book groups, where debate and discussion is encouraged.
As this novel, underneath its tough crime fiction shell, has layer upon layer of culture and depth.

Zaq begins his investigation and we meet people from Rita’s life and also those within Zaq’s friendship circle. The characterisation is brilliant and there is such a variety of characters within the cast. You love some and hate others! Zaq really has his back against the wall, with continuing and growing threats and intimidation from every angle. He has to find Rita and he has to find her FAST………….

The novel is scattered with Punjabi phrases and I think that really added to its uniqueness. It sets it poles apart from the mainstream offerings, on the crime fiction shelves, at your local Waterstones. There are themes of honour/shame within the Asian community and the divisions within the different religions such as Sikh, Muslim and Hindu. We learn of Zaq’s past and how he hopes to turn his life around and the evolving change within the Asian community, the break from tradition. Action, crime and culture blended together to create, this unique and unforgettable novel.

This is urban, this is diverse and this is brilliantly British! 5*

***Link to author Q&A below***

aa
Amer Anwar
Website
Twitter
Q&A from 5/5/17 with Amer Anwar