#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
Website
Twitter

 

My #Review Jane Doe January by @emilycwinslow 5* @WmMorrowBooks #NonFiction by @annebonnybook

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Jane Doe January by Emily Winslow
Synopsis:
In the vein of Alice Sebold’s Lucky, comes a compelling, real-life crime mystery and gripping memoir of the cold case prosecution of a serial rapist, told by one of his victims.

On the morning of September 12, 2013, a fugitive task force arrested Arthur Fryar at his apartment in Brooklyn. His DNA, entered in the FBI’s criminal database after a drug conviction, had been matched to evidence from a rape in Pennsylvania years earlier. Over the next year, Fryar and his lawyer fought his extradition and prosecution for the rape—and another like it—which occurred in 1992. The victims—one from January of that year, the other from November—were kept anonymous in the media.
This is the story of Jane Doe January.

Emily Winslow was a young drama student at Carnegie Mellon University’s elite conservatory in Pittsburgh when a man brutally attacked and raped her in January 1992. While the police’s search for her rapist proved futile, Emily reclaimed her life. Over the course of the next two decades, she fell in love, married, had two children, and began writing mystery novels set in her new hometown of Cambridge, England. Then, in fall 2013, she received shocking news—the police had found her rapist.

This is her intimate memoir—the story of a woman’s traumatic past catching up with her, in a country far from home, surrounded by people who have no idea what she’s endured. Caught between past and present, and between two very different cultures, the inquisitive and restless crime novelist searches for clarity. Beginning her own investigation, she delves into Fryar’s family and past, reconnects with the detectives of her case, and works with prosecutors in the months leading to trial.

As she recounts her long-term quest for closure, Winslow offers a heartbreakingly honest look at a vicious crime—and offers invaluable insights into the mind and heart of a victim.

My review:

This is an incredibly powerful non-fiction book; which walks us through one woman’s journey in the aftermath of, a stranger rape. The narrative not only focuses on the immediate aftermath; but the longevity of the case spanning over 20 years.
It is at times a difficult read, but one I feel could provide a huge benefit to other victims of sexual violence.

The opening is in September 2013, when Emily finally gets the call she has been longing for. Her rapist has been apprehended. The New York fugitive force have been brought into the case, at the Pennsylvania police forces request.
They inform Emily, the suspect has been arrested for what he had done previously, to another victim, shortly after Emily’s attack!

What makes this novel unique, is that Emily in 2013 is now living in Cambridge, UK. Her attack took place in her college town of Pennsylvania. The case and trial, force Emily to navigate the American legal system, from England. She is often kept out of the loop, of information and you can hear her internal angst, that she may never get justice.

The timeline, jumps from past to present. It details the attack that took place on a college campus in 1992. Where a young Emily, is innocently doing her laundry on a quiet Sunday evening. The violence of the attack is fully explained. Although this may make for uncomfortable reading. I think it is imperative, to understand the full context of the book in its entirety.
When you read the pages of the attack and the aftermath at the hospital. You never one question yourself, was she drinking? What was she wearing on the night of the attack?
Which leads me to wonder, why these are such ‘crucial’ questions frequently at victim’s trials…..

Emily begins her recovery by setting herself mental challenges and rules. She allows herself to be ‘a mess’ for a year only. Seek support in the daytime only and keep a diary of her thoughts. Each victim must deal with the aftermath of their attack individually, and this is also addressed in the book. After getting a sense of who Emily is as a person and her views. I felt she made the decisions based on what was best for her, at that time.
But I often wanted to reach through the book, to offer her my friendship, a hug and some solidarity as a fellow woman.

The book also details the legal aspects of the case, such as the statute of limitations. This doesn’t exist in the UK and therefore I found this intriguing reading. Whilst I respect the legal points of the statute of limitations, it does not consider the advances made in science and in-particular DNA evidence. This is a great shame of the US. Not only that, but the ‘back-log’ of rape kits that haven’t been ran through the new CODIS system.
How many rapists roam American streets freely?

“I don’t want to have to say that he ruined my life. I don’t want to consider my life ruined” – Emily

The book goes on to detail the cops involved in the case, both past and present. The legal team and the obstacles they face in securing a conviction. The book also recounts Emily’s desperate search for information about her rapist. I don’t know if this is her attempts to understand why the attack took place. Her inner need; to gain back some control over the situation now developing in 2013. She often references forgiveness and punishment within her narrative. Meanwhile, her rapist is determined to dominate and control the investigation and legal process, right up to trial!

“I know that some people hate the term ‘victim’ and prefer to be called a ‘survivor’ instead, but I don’t mind the word. He did hurt me. I was a victim of that. It bothers me to euphemize it” – Emily

I felt privileged to be able to read Emily’s story. Fortunate that she lets us, the reader, into her emotional journey. There is a specific part where she uses the aftermath of the ordeal; as a metaphoric comparison to carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide doesn’t harm you, by itself, it merely takes the space of the oxygen. This is both profound and insightful to the emotional/psychological impact that rape, has on its victims.

Emily comes across as someone you can relate to. Almost like someone you knew growing up. Which makes the narrative and pain she goes through harder to digest. But I think this book could be a huge benefit to other victims. It may help them validate their feelings and pain. There are paragraphs designed as advice to fellow victims. There is a ‘in conversation’ part with author Sophie Hannah. Reading group questions and information relating to behind the book and the backlog of rape kits. The author has covered, as many aspects as possible to offer help and support to others and for that she deserves huge credit.
A non-fiction title that will stay with me for a very long time! 5*

emily
Emily Winslow
Authors links:
Website: http://emilywinslow.com/
Twitter: @emilycwinslow

#BookReview 4.5* Rivals Of The Republic by @afreisenbruch @Duckbooks (UK)#TheBloodOfRome #Series @overlookpress (USA)

*I received a paperback copy via Duck books (UK) publishers in return for an honest review*

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Rivals Of The Republic by Annelise Freisenbruch
Synopsis:

Using her supreme knowledge of the period, author Annelise Freisenbruch presents the great new heroine of historical fiction, Hortensia, who must navigate the male-dominated courts of law in her quest to uncover a sinister plot to overthrow the Republic. Drawing from historical accounts of the daughter of famed Roman orator Quintus Hortensius Hortalus, Freisenbruch delivers an atmospheric, meticulously accurate and fast-paced story that will have readers craving more. Rome, 70BC. Roman high society hums with gossip about the suspicious suicide of a prominent Roman senator and the body of a Vestal Virgin is discovered in the river Tiber. As the authorities turn a blind eye, Hortensia is moved to investigate a trail of murders that appear to lead straight to the dark heart of the Eternal City.

My Review:

This novel has is it all, the atmosphere, crime, scandal, life and death of Ancient Roman era. The characters are well written and the plot incredibly appealing to me.
I am a huge fan of historical crime fiction.

Rome 70 BC

The novel opens with Hortensia and her brother Quintus at a gladiator arena. They are saved by a gladiator called Hannibal The Conqueror from a crocodile. When he later loses his fight Hortensia urges her father, a wealthy lawyer to buy him as a slave due to his earlier heroics.
Hannbel’s real name is Lucrio and he will, come to mean so much more to Horetensia than she can ever imagine……..

Hortensia’s father is a prominent wealthy lawyer, in Rome. She is his favoured child and for this reason he agrees to allow her to marry for love. Something unheard of for the era. Hortensia chooses to marry her second cousin, Caepio and they move into their own accommodation. Taking Lucrio with them, but Lucrio has secrets of his own and a deep seated need for vengeance…..

As the novel develops, Hortensia feels compelled to help Drusilla, at court with the case of stolen dowry and her children’s custody. This gives Hortensia a voice for the first time, something virtually unheard of in Roman society! Her father is furious with her, for creating a potential scandal. He forbids her from any future such endeavours.
But then Hortensia is summoned to the temple of vesta.

The chief vestal informs her that a body has recently been found and they believe that the vestal virgin was murdered. Documents have either been removed, or forged and this could have an impact on Roman society as a whole. The victim managed to write the words Pomey M at the scene before her death. We learn more about Lucrio’s background and why he is seeking revenge. But it isn’t until he is backed into a corner that he confesses to Hortensia. At this moment, they realise that despite their positions in society.
They must work together to solve the case of the murdered vestal virgin.
4.5*

***** This novel is perfect for fans of the BBC TV show Rome! I was a huge fan of this series and this novel is very reminiscent.*****

AF

Annelise Freisenbruch
Authors links:
Website: http://www.annelisefreisenbruch.co.uk/
Twitter: @afreisenbruch
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3412996.Annelise_Freisenbruch

*A huge thank you to the author & Duck books for my copy and I look forward to the next in the blood of Rome series!*

#Review 4* #RightBehindYou by @LisaGardnerBKs @headlinepg @bookbridgr

*I received an arc via the Bookbridgr website, in return for an honest review*

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Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner
(FBI profiler book 7)
Synopsis:
Thirteen-year-old Sharlah Nash knows that the first time her brother killed eight years ago, he did it to save their lives.

Now retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife Rainie Conner have offered Sharlah a new life of safety. She desperately wants to believe this is her shot at happily ever after.

Then two people are murdered in their local convenience store and Sharlah’s brother is identified as the killer.

Telly Ray Nash is on the hunt for Sharlah and as the death count rises it becomes clear that nothing and no-one, including Pierce and Rainie, will stop him getting to her.

Now, Sharlah has one chance to take control.

She can run for her life… or turn and face the danger right behind her.

My Review:

This is such an unusual crime fiction read. What I thought would present as a simple case and investigation, actually was a manhunt with clever clues woven into the plot.
It is action packed and would suit the reader, that likes to feel they are in on the pursuit of the criminal.

The novel opens with 13 year old Sharlah Nash, currently awaiting adoption by retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife Rainie Conner. Sharlah has a second chance at life, but it hasn’t always been so easy…….

Sharlah and brother Telly Ray Nash, were raised in abject poverty. With trailer trash parents, a father a junkie abuser and an alcoholic mother who did little to protect them. Ultimately the situation comes to a head one day when Telly is forced to protect his younger sibling, resulting in the deaths of their parents.
No charges were ever filed but the children were separated and Telly labelled bad news!

There is news of a local crime scene at a gas station, with two victims left dead. Everything points to a young male perpetrator with no known motive. When a link is established to Telly, they trace his most recent foster parents, only to discover them dead also. What follows is a man hunt full of twists and turns.
Did Telly shoot his foster parents? If so why? What drove Telly to murder so coldly?

Telly Ray Nash’s childhood, mental state and motives are fully explored. There are a wealth of labels and terms thrown around with no clear diagnosis criteria. I felt this dampened the character at first, he came off as a text book killer rather than a human with emotions, vulnerabilities and childhood trauma. Sharlah’s mental health state is rarely debated and I felt this let down the whole mental health narrative.
Their childhood is fully detailed and makes for shocking reading, how do children like this ever stand a chance?

There are a series of professionals brought in to assist the man hunt and give advice on Telly’s state of mind. I found it quite emotional to read the part where it details the bullying Telly had withstood at school. No wonder some kids just snap?

“Telly Nash, armed with a bat, slugged his mother out of the park then whacked his father till all went dark…”

There are chapters from Telly’s point of view that help the reader establish his true motives. It becomes clear Telly had a deep bond with his foster mother and felt deep pain at the loss of his relationship with his sister. Maybe Telly isn’t what they think?
But the situation takes a drastic turn when Sharlah decides to assist Telly and in doing so runs away………

What will become of Sharlah? Can/will Telly protect her?

An action packed, man hunt story! Perfect for fans of the movie The Fugitive! 4*

LG
Lisa Gardner
Authors links:
Twitter: @LisaGardnerBKs
Website: http://www.lisagardner.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LisaGardnerBks/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18282.Lisa_Gardner

***This book is currently on #Kindle Ebook offer for just 99p***

 

#Review 5* #TrustMe by @TheAngelaClarke @AvonBooksUK #CrimeFiction #SocialMediaSeries

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Trust Me by Angela Clarke
Synopsis:

YOU SAW IT HAPPEN. DIDN’T YOU?

What do you do if you witness a crime…but no-one believes you?

When Kate sees a horrific attack streamed live on her laptop, she calls the police in a state of shock. But when they arrive, the video has disappeared – and she can’t prove anything. Desperate to be believed, Kate tries to find out who the girl in the video could be – and who attacked her.

Freddie and Nas are working on a missing persons case, but the trail has gone cold. When Kate contacts them, they are the only ones to listen and they start to wonder – are the two cases connected?

Dark, gripping, and flawlessly paced, Trust Me is the brilliant third novel in the hugely popular social media murderer series.

‘Smart and sassy’ SARAH PINBOROUGH, author of Behind Her Eyes

‘Clever and unnerving’ C.L. Taylor, author of The Escape

My review:

I am new to this series, but have read many positive reviews and praise. I initially assumed Freddie and Nas were male characters (my bad!). It was a pleasant surprise to see two strong female leads, in a contemporary, police procedural, crime fiction novel. This made the novel feel much more realistic to me. My bestie is a detective. So whilst I know there maybe be fewer female detectives, there are still more than is often portrayed in crime fiction.

The novel opens with Kate witnessing a savage and graphic rape and murder via a live stream on the internet. The periscope account is quickly deactivated, leaving Kate with no proof of what she saw. She contacts a local police officer, PC Jones who is dismissive and trivialises the event.
Leading Kate to start her own investigation!

But Kate isn’t the only one that witnessed the live stream…..

The novel then focuses on the police team. There is wide mixture of characters. With the main two being DS Nasreem Cudmore and civilian investigator Freddie Venton. Freddie is going through a role change. But the individual role of the team members is fully explained. They are currently investigating the case of a missing gang member Paul Robertson, who disappeared with his daughter Amber a year ago. They are linked to a local gang, THM tower hamlets massive and a rival gang the dogberry boys. The gangs are heavily involved in drugs and the trafficking of people, usually for the sex trade. When they investigate Amber’s social media, they are shocked to discover RIP messages. Is Amber dead? Or is this a threat?

There are chapters written from the perspective of someone involved in the live streamed assault. They are chilling! But they do offer an insight into the guilt, people may feel for their involvement or coercion into a brutal assault. Kate is struggling mentally with what she witnessed and becomes more and more unreliable as a character. She begins have delusions and ends up on sleeping tablets, to block out the images of what she saw. I felt this was also an insight into the life of a witness after the tragic event. I am not sure I would have coped much better than Kate.
It must be sheer hell to witness, what she saw…..

The novel continues at quite a rapid pace. We discover Kate’s personal grief, which fuels her delusions. The team also uncover more threats via social media. More witnesses come forward and Freddie and Nas begin to start asking themselves, are they now looking for a body?

“If you cross me I will come for the people you love. I will destroy them. I will take you apart piece by piece” Lex Riley FB post.

This novel has so many themes. We discover the depravity that can lurk in disenfranchised youth. The brutality of rape and its impact on innocent young women. The pain of witnesses in the aftermath. The lure and hold gangs, have over their members. The dangers of social media and the internet. How do the police officers cope, putting a case together, chasing leads and gathering the relevant evidence?
Highly recommended! 5*

*It may also be worth noting. There are a set of questions at the back for reading groups and a Q&A with the author herself. Which makes this ideal for a contemporary crime fiction pick, for reading groups!

AC
Angela Clarke
Authors links:
Twitter: @TheAngelaClarke
Website: http://angelaclarke.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterAngelaClarke/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6993171.Angela_Clarke