Anne Bonny #BookReview Someone To watch Over Me by @YrsaSig Yrsa Sigurdardottir 5* #CrimeFiction #IcelandicNoir ‘A cracking crime fiction thriller and I applaud the author for her accurate and inclusive cast of characters. 5*’

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Someone To watch Over Me by Yrsa Sigurdardottir – Thora Gudmundsdottir  #5
Translated by Philip Roughton

My own copy from tbr pile
Synopsis:

A creepy, compelling thriller, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME is the fifth Thora Gudmundsdottir novel from Yrsa, ‘Iceland’s answer to Stieg Larsson’ (Daily Telegraph).

A young man with Down’s Syndrome has been convicted of burning down his care home and killing five people, but a fellow inmate at his secure psychiatric unit has hired Thora to prove that Jakob is innocent.

If he didn’t do it, who did? And how is the multiple murder connected to the death of Magga, killed in a hit and run on her way to babysit?

My Review:

This is #5 in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series. I initially picked it to read, because of its unique synopsis. A young male (Jakob) accused of a violent and fatal crime, but also a character central to the story with downs syndrome. I was intrigued to see how the author would tackle the themes of learning difficulties, in a crime fiction novel. I was not disappointed, at all. What I got was a snapshot into life in a secure psychiatric unit and Thora’s relentless quest for justice.

The novel opens with an eerie scene of a young boy (4yrs) seemingly being haunted by a spirit. It immediately gave me goose bumps and I wondered how much of the novel would contain a supernatural element.

In January 2010, Thora is requested to visit Josteinn Karlsson. He is an inmate at a secure psychiatric unit Sogn; with seven other patients. Josteinn is a prolific child abuser, certified guilty but insane. He has been diagnosed with acute schizophrenia and personality disorders. He has resided at Sogn for 8yrs now and Thora wonders why he would suddenly request her assistance. She informs Josteinn she cannot help with his case, that it is entirely beyond her remit. However, it isn’t her case he wants her to investigate. . .

‘He’s my friend. A good friend’ – Josteinn

Josteinn wishes for her to investigate the case of fellow patient/inmate Jakob. Who is remanded to Sogn due to an act of arson, that left five people dead. Josteinn claims Jakob is innocent, because he knows what it takes to commit such a heinous act and he believes Jakob to be innocent.

Reluctantly, Thora takes the case. She begins her investigation by talking to Jakob’s mother Grimheidur Porjarnardottir. Jakob’s mother brings Thora up to speed, on how she has raised Jakob and the authoritarian approach social services has had over their lives. I found this to be very true to life. There have been multiple cases in the British press; where adults with care needs enter a residential setting against the parents wishes, only for there to be an incident of harm to them or others. Jakob’s mother also sheds light upon a life of little support, being dictated to and not listened to. He was at the sheltered accommodation, only 16 months before the fire occurred.

Their so called support was just the opposite: you never got what you wanted, and you never wanted what you got’ – Grimheidur Porjarnardottir

Thora begins to investigate the residential setting, going into business and patient’s records. The setting was a new-build, designed for five residents aged between 18yrs-25ys. The home’s residents had a wide-range of needs. Lisa was a comatose patient. Sigridur was blind and deaf. Natan was severely epileptic and heavily medicated at night. Tryggvi was severely autistic and never left his room. All perished in the fire, along with the night watchman.
But what was life really like inside the setting? How can Thora get to the truth when the patients are deceased?

‘A sheltered community should be a safe haven for the unfortunate, like a fortress to protect the most needy and vulnerable members of society. But that was clearly not the case. What had actually happened there?’

When Thora digs into the post mortem of resident Lisa, she will uncover a shocking case of abuse.Was the fire to cover up the abuse of a disabled resident?
Was it really Jakob that set the fire?

Thora also begins to receive cryptic random text messages, that are drip fed into the narrative as clues. We the reader, come to understand what they mean, before Thora. At this point I was literally screaming at the kindle. The tension and stakes were THAT high!
Thora questions the motives of Josteinn throughout. Why would a outwardly soulless man care for the future of Jakob’s plight?

‘I can promise you that I have only bad intentions’ – Josteinn

Every book brings something unique, but what this book brings is an honest portrayal of a wide-range of characters with additional needs. I think the author did a brilliant job of the portrayal of the shady people that can be involved in the care of society’s most vulnerable. The cast of residents is written incredibly well, especially the character Tryggvi. My son is autistic, so I rarely read novels with this condition. But when I do I like to see the needs portrayed as accurately as possible, which the author fully achieved.

A cracking crime fiction thriller and I applaud the author for her accurate and inclusive cast of characters. 5*

YS
Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Twitter
My review of, The Undesired
My review of, The Reckoning
My Review of, The Legacy
My review of, Why Did You Lie?

Anne Bonny #BookReview Songs Of Innocence by @Anne_Coates1 #NewRelease #CrimeFiction #Thriller #HannahWeybridge @urbanebooks ‘Perfect for fans of crime fiction who like a female driven, ambitious and feisty protagonist’

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Songs Of Innocence by Anne Coates
Review Copy
Synopsis:

A woman’s body is found in a lake. Is it a sad case of suicide or something more sinister? Hannah Weybridge, still reeling from her friend’s horrific murder and the attempts on her own life, doesn’t want to get involved, but reluctantly agrees to look into the matter for the family.

The past however still stalks her steps, and a hidden danger accompanies her every move.

The third in the bestselling Hannah Weybridge thriller series, Songs of Innocence provides Hannah with her toughest and deadliest assignment yet…

My Review:

Songs Of Innocence is the third novel in the Hannah Weybridge series. The novels are set in the 1990s and Hannah is an investigative journalist. She is feisty and independent. She is never afraid to tackle and expose the toughest crimes.

This particular novel focuses on a series of murders of several young women. The first murder is nearly misjudged a suicide. It is only at the involvement of Hannah and her request of a second post mortem; the truth is brought to light.

The murders involve several young women of the local Asian community. Hannah is brought in by the family of Amalia Kumar. Her aunt Sunita is furious at the police’s lack of interest in the case and urges Hannah to help her get justice for Amalia.

‘An Asian girl getting herself killed isn’t top of their priorities, is it?’ – Sunita Kumar

The racism and prejudice faced by the Asian community is fully explored within the novel. I did find this quite eye-opening that in many ways Asian women are still fighting for equal rights in 2018. With issues that they face in their communities often being politicalised; with no real legal repercussions imposed (FGM).

When more bodies are discovered, it becomes clear there is a killer in their midst and he is targeting a specific demographic. Is this the work of a serial killer? Is there a form of cultural basis? The police and Hannah are struggling for clues.

The author has included a wide-range of culture and diversity, whilst also maintaining an honest to the era. Society understood far less back then, than it does now.
Forced marriage is explored, as is Rana’s story of domestic abuse. The novel opened by eyes, to the struggle other generations of women have faced.

The professional trust and relationship between the police and the press, is what makes it for me. Something we will sadly see little of, in the future.

Perfect for fans of crime fiction who like a female driven, ambitious and feisty protagonist. Hannah Weybridge is for you! 5*

AC
Anne Coates
Website
Twitter

Anne Bonny #BookReview East End Angels by @hendry_rosie Rosie Hendry #ww2 #Saga #WomenOfWW2 ‘East End Angels tells the story of three fascinating women and their journey through ww2’

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East End Angels by Rosie Hendy
My own copy from tbr pile
Synopsis:

Meet The East End Angels, the newest members of Station Seventy-Five’s ambulance crew

Strong-willed Winnie loves being part of the crew at Station Seventy-Five but her parents are less than happy. She has managed to avoid their pleas to join the WRENS so far but when a tragedy hits too close to home she finds herself wondering if she’s cut out for this life after all.

Former housemaid Bella was forced to leave the place she loved when she lost it all and it’s taken her a while to find somewhere else to call home. She’s finally starting to build a new life but when the air raids begin, it seems she may have to start over once again.

East-Ender Frankie‘s sense of loyalty keeps her tied to home so it’s not easy for her to stay focused at work. With her head and heart pulling in different directions, will she find the strength to come through for her friends when they need her the most?

Brought together at LAAS Station Seventy-Five in London’s East End during 1940, these three very different women soon realise that they’ll need each other if they’re to get through the days ahead. But can the ties of friendship, love and family all remain unbroken?

My Review:

East End Angels tells the story of three fascinating women and their journey through ww2. The novel is the first in a series and perfectly builds the foundations for further novels. The three women are all very different in personality and I look forward to watching them grow and develop through the series. I already own the next in the series Secrets Of The East End Angels on my bookshelves.

The East End Angels comprise of: Stella Franklyn (Frankie), Margot Churchill (Winnie) and Peggy Belmont (Bella). They are members of the 75 ambulance crew, with Frankie their newest member. Overseeing their work is Station Officer Violet Steele. There is also transferred in new recruit William McCartney (Mac).

‘We look out for each other at station 75’ – Bella

The girls form a fantastic team and as the novel progresses we see them on various call-outs and in action. It is quite shocking some of the scenes they must contend with and overcome. At times forced to make tough choices with little time to think or plan. But together they make a formidable team.

William offered an interesting narrative into the plot. As William in a conscientious objector. I read a lot of ww2 fiction and saga’s, yet I think this is the first time I have come across a conscientious objector as a character.
So, I looked forward to every scene he was in.

‘I’m not a coward; I just can’t kill’ – Mac

Slowly we begin to learn each girl’s backstory. Stella’s homelife is far from perfect, but she takes comfort in nurturing an evacuee. Winnie was born in India and raised in considerable wealth and her mother tries to play a huge part in her life choices. Bella is possibly the quietest of the bunch, she has experienced a hard life and thanks to the air raids, it continues to get tougher.

The story of the male characters is told as they confide in their sisters. I thought this was a fantastic idea. I am one of eight siblings, I cannot even begin to imagine how life would have been for us growing up during ww2. But I know my brothers would perhaps confide their fears to me and my sisters. I think this also offered a different dynamic to the confiding soldier we see so often in ww2 fiction or saga’s with confidence only being between lovers.

There is love, smile and laughter amongst the team. As the battle the aftermath of catastrophic air raids and the devastation they leave behind. There is even a search and rescue dog named Trixie. The novel has a personal focus solely on the characters and their role in the ambulance crew.
It reminded me of the novels/TV series Call The Midwife. 4*

RH
Rosie Hendry
Website
Twitter

Next in the series. . . .
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Secrets Of The East End Angels by Rosie Hendry

Anne Bonny #BookReview Once A Pilgrim by @jamesdeeganMC James Deegan 5* Genius #NewRelease #SAS #Action #Thriller @HQstories ‘John Carr is probably the closest to realism as you can get’

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Once A Pilgrim by James Deegan
Review copy
Synopsis:

John Carr has recently left the SAS, after a long and distinguished career, and is now working for a Russian oligarch in the murky world of private security.

But an incident from his past – in which three terrorists were brutally killed – suddenly comes back to haunt him.

Tracked by a hitman out for revenge, John Carr is forced to step over the line to defend himself and his family. It’s a cruel and violent world – and one he thought he’d left behind.

But some wars never end.

Patriot Games meets Taken: In Once A Pilgrim, John Carr shows all the Reacher-esque hallmarks of a cold-blooded antihero doing what needs to be done, whatever the consequences.

My Review:

Once A Pilgrim is the action-packed debut novel, of ex-SAS author James Deegan. I am not a huge follower of the action/thriller genre. But I really liked the sound of this novel. Add in the realism and fine details of military life and it is no wonder this is an Amazon bestseller.
He who dares, most definitely wins!

The novel opens with John ‘Mad John’ Carr’s CV. It details his military background, family history and current role. Carr is a decorated soldier, but with his gruff Scottish accent will tell you himself he isn’t in it for the medals. He has been wounded in battle and bears the scars of his past. He has sacrificed his marriage for his career, as many soldiers do. He has lost comrades and his own brother in action in Afghanistan.
Basically, John Carr makes one hell of a protagonist!

The novel opens during a tour of Iraq. With Sgt Major John Carr on his final op, before he signs the papers that’ll send him into civvie street. On the streets of Baghdad, his decision to leave the SAS weighs heavy on his conscience. However, he must not lose focus in the objective to retrieve/kill Sufyan Bin Ahmed aka Joker. The target is an Al Qaeda member and it falls to Carr’s team to take him out dead or alive.

‘Carr would have stepped through the gates of hell with Geordie by his side, and the feeling was mutual’

At Carr’s side is Squadron Quarter Master Sgt Geordie Skelton and new boy ‘Rooney’. They are aware Joker is planning to detonate a bomb in a civilian area of the central Shia district of Sadr city. Time is of the essence. Yet the spooks want the foot soldiers to take, their time and take Joker alive. The area has already been subject to religious cleansing and emotions and motives are fraught. When Carr’s team come under enemy fire from a separate insurgent attack nearby.

The opening scene is insanely tense. The team are left with one casualty of war, one wounded and a dead Joker. This all takes place in just six minutes. It full reminds the reader of the important work the SAS carry out and the risks they take with every breath of their operations.

The novel then jumps forward six months, with Carr now getting out, attending a comrade’s funeral and finalising his divorce. He has a job lined up for a private oil security firm in Southern Iraq. Carr wants to earn some decent money for a change. But as he leaves the base, he is approached by various high-ranking officials and he reflects upon the opportunities afforded to him in his military career.

‘The Army has given him discipline and focus, and turned him into a man’

There are various times within the narrative, Carr reflects upon the various people that make up the squadron. The individuals from all walks of life. From the poverty of Edinburgh to the boarding schools of Eton. The military caters to all.
It is as he is leaving that privileged Major General Guy De Vere (Director of special forces) reminds Carr of their time together in Clonards. Instantly we are transported back to Carr’s memory of that night. . .

Belfast, Northern Ireland 20yrs ago to be precise. A young ambitious Lance Cpl John Carr is with Cpl Mick ‘Scouse’ Parry and new boy De Vere as they patrol the open war zone that is the streets of Northern Ireland.

In this narrative we also see the points of view of Gerard Casey, his brother ‘sick Sean’ Casey and Ciaren O’Brien. They make up a small team of IRA with a target in mind. Their target William ‘Billy’ Jones, son of a Ulster volunteer and currently dating a Catholic girl named Colleen. Billy is no threat to them, their cause or NI in general. Billy wants out of NI and the troubles altogether. But due to who his father is, he is a named target. It is a night of violence and retribution which will echo well into the future and present day.

‘He’d dealt with bad men and worse jobs in every continent, but nowhere felt like Belfast’

London, present day: Whilst John Carr is sleeping off the effects of the night before. Senior officials are meeting to discuss the possible trial of British soldiers after the death of Gerard Casey. With new evidence from a witness come forward after 20yrs and a dying mans confessions. The officials discuss whether they should take this case further and bring criminal charges.

‘This sounds awfully like throwing two innocent men to the wolves’ – Kevin Murphy

The officials discuss the potential risks to the soldiers, media containment, press exposure and risks to soldier’s families of reprisals. Despite everything considered they decide to push ahead.
It is a decision that will have devastating consequences for John Carr.

‘He hadn’t wanted this fight – it had come looking for him but he was in it, and he had to win it’

The debate of putting British soldiers on trials for the actions in Northern Ireland, has been a played out in the media not so long ago. How senior government officials can sleep in the safety of their beds; as they sanction such cases is beyond my understanding. A comfy sleep that is afforded to them by the action of those who make untold sacrifices.

The realism and accuracy of military life is brilliant and second to none. I personally have no experience of the SAS. I married into the military way of life at 17yrs old and my husband was an airborne soldier. I recognised several terms such as ‘seven P’s’ and ‘ally’. But the fact that the soldiers were drinking brews and chatting bantz on page 4 of the novel, was a dead giveaway this is the real deal! The nicknames, the way in which the soldiers spoke to one another and the unspoken brotherhood are all clear indicators of a novel laced with intense accuracy.

This novel is gripping, with a clever plot that will be the envy of most crime writers. There are twists and tension along the way! John Carr is probably the closest to realism as you can get. Highly recommended 5* Genius

James Deegan – Twitter

Anne Bonny #BookReview Smoke And Ashes by @radiomukhers Abir Mukherjee 5* Genius #NewRelease #Historical #CrimeFiction #Calcutta @HarvillSecker ‘Outstanding historical crime fiction, that I would love to see adapted for the TV screens’

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Smoke And Ashes by Abir Mukherjee 
Review copy
Synopsis:

**From the winner of the 2017 CWA Historical Dagger Award**

India, 1921. Haunted by his memories of the Great War, Captain Sam Wyndham is battling a serious addiction to opium that he must keep secret from his superiors in the Calcutta police force.

When Sam is summoned to investigate a grisly murder, he is stunned at the sight of the body: he’s seen this before. Last night, in a drug addled haze, he stumbled across a corpse with the same ritualistic injuries. It seems like there’s a deranged killer on the loose. Unfortunately for Sam, the corpse was in an opium den and revealing his presence there could cost him his career.

With the aid of his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, Sam must try to solve the two murders, all the while keeping his personal demons secret, before somebody else turns up dead.

Set against the backdrop of the fervent fight for Indian independence, and rich with the atmosphere of 1920s Calcutta, Smoke and Ashes is the brilliant new historical mystery in this award-winning series.

My Review:

I am a huge fan of this series and If you haven’t read A Rising Man or A Necessary Evil, then you need to add them to your wish list asap. The series is phenomenal and historical crime fiction at its finest. It was my 126th read of the year so far and the 13th edition to the 5* Genius list. The era, characters and location that Abir Mukherjee has created within the series is sheer brilliance.
*I am a shameless fangirl*

The series is set post ww1 in Calcutta, India. The main characters are British Captain Sam Wyndham and Indian Sgt (Surrender-not) Banerjee. The novels are historical fiction, but there is always a grisly crime to be unearthed in the British Raj. I must admit that with this novel, I really felt the historical aspect of the novel had stepped up its game. The depth of historical detail really added to the story. India’s social and political climate is described in a fantastic method, letting the characters lead the scenes.
This is not a history lesson; the author simply invites you into 1921 Calcutta.

The novel opens with Sam fleeing the Imperial police force, blade in hand and covered in blood. He is fleeing a Tangra opium den and is certainly feeling the effects, shall we say. I began to wonder how bad is Sam’s opium addiction?
Is Sam going to be the murderer in this case?

‘Calcutta opium is best smoked ten feet below the corpses of half a dozen dead men’

Despite the police in pursuit, after the raid on the opium den, Sam manages to escape. But he can’t get out of his mind the dead body of the Chinese man he found. Why was the body so disfigured? Was this an opium ‘pipe dream’? Why was Commanding Officer Callaghan of Vice division raiding the den? Sam has so many questions as he falls asleep in a drug induced haze.

‘Calcutta was as flawed and dysfunctional as I was’ – Sam

When he awakes, late, as usual for Sam now. He finds Surrender-not has already left for work. He lights a cigarette and ponders his next course of action, over the body he found.

‘The Chinese were a law unto themselves. What they did to each other was none of my business’

In the background of the novel is the political protests of Mahatma Gandhi. It would appear the natives have tired of British rule and long for independence. Tempers are frayed, and the jails are full. With an impending visit from H.R.H Prince Edward scheduled for Christmas Day. Sam and surrender-not must ensure the streets are free from protestors.
Which will be no easy task, at all.

Lord Taggart, commissioner of the police for Bengal summons Sam to his office. He orders Sam and Surrender-not to deliver a message to Gandhi’s ‘chief rabble rouser’ – C.R Das that the organisation of congress volunteers is now banned. There are clear and spiteful threats issued, the natives must obey their British masters.

The theme of the British Raj and colonisation in general, makes this novel perfect for book groups. There are so many elements to debate. It is also easy to look back with the wisdom of hindsight. I spend many summer days at Osbourne House the summer home of Queen Victoria. It has an Indian room and there is evidence of Indian artefacts throughout. Queen Victoria was clearly impressed and inspired by Indian culture. I find it surprising that a culture for which she found so fascinating, she never visited. . .

Back to the novel and Sam. Not only is Sam battling his emotional past, with the loss of his wife Sarah. Annie makes a reappearance and he has an out of control opiate addiction. He eventually agrees to see a doctor and deal with his opiate addiction once and for all.

‘I preferred not to be reminded of the ghosts of Christmas past’ – Sam

With Das refusing to give in to Taggart’s demands. Sam is placed in the awkward position of delivering messages he no longer believes in or agrees with. . .

‘Tell him that I’ve no issue with arresting him, his family and every one of his supporters’ – Taggart

The British are in the difficult position of wanting to coerce the opposition via threats and intimidation and not wanting to make martyrs of them.
There will be no easy solution in British India.

Sam and Surrender-not are called to a crime scene at Shant-da’s medical clinic. Where they find the body of a young nurse Ruth Fernandez. Ruth’s corpse has the identical injuries as the Chinese victim at the opium den. But what links the murders? Ruth is a native from Goa but holds the role of military nurse. She openly practises her Christian faith. Are these murders political?
Has the non-violent protest suddenly turned to murder?

With the new murder and political tensions at an all time high, the British issue a military enforced curfew of 6pm. At times it felt that they did everything they could, to ignite the flames of riots.
Leaving Sam battling his personal opinions and professional responsibilities.

‘Maybe my penance was a life sentence’ – Sam

When another murder occurs, it is clear Calcutta has a serial killer on its hands and only one man knows the truth. Sam.

As said above the historical aspects are beautifully written and there is so much detail. Each political event, is broken down to be shown from both sides of the governmental powers. I wondered how the author would tackle the character of Gandhi and his political stance. What you discover is that Gandhi was a highly intelligent man, with a strategic mind. He meticulously planned his protests and lived by his convictions.
But I love the way Sam summarises the situation (and some of the finest writing might I add) . . .

‘To see a man as your enemy, you needed to hate him, and while it was easy to hate a man who fought you with bullets and bombs, it was bloody difficult to hate a man who opposed you by appealing to your moral compass’ – Sam

I was sad to see Surrender-not, firmly return to his role of side-kick. In the last novel I really felt his character gain such presence. Despite it being difficult to watch an intelligent man (must) take a back-seat to the British rule. Yet I respect the author for changing the style of each novel, keeping you the reader guessing and avoiding the huge error of repeating the same novel with just a different case.

Outstanding historical crime fiction, that I would love to see adapted for the TV screens. I can even picture the atmospheric opening credits, as we glance around 1920s Calcutta. 5* Genius.

AM
Abir Mukherjee
Twitter
Website
My review and Q&A for, A Rising Man
My review and Q&A for, A Necessary Evil