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 Man I Think I know by @mikegayle 5* #Literary @HodderBooks ‘This novel isn’t just about emotion. It actively challenges the view of disability and personal struggle’

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The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Ever since The Incident, James DeWitt has stayed on the safe side.

He likes to know what happens next.

Danny Allen is not on the safe side. He is more past the point of no return.

The past is about to catch up with both of them in a way that which will change their lives forever, unexpectedly.

But redemption can come in the most unlikely ways.

My Review:

I actually got completely and utterly confused in the synopsis of this novel. I thought it was a modern-day version of Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter. I wrongly assumed it was a story of romance between James and Danny. It is not!
That’s not to say, it isn’t just as beautiful and emotive in it’s creation.
The novel focuses on the friendship between Danny and James.
Which is a tender, moving and inspiring story.

‘Some people are simply beyond redemption or salvation or whatever, some of us are simply stuck being what we are’ – Danny

The novel opens to Danny getting the upsetting news that his dole is about to be stopped. He lives with his girlfriend Maya, whom he knows will be furious to discover this. Danny is 36yrs old and appears to have simply given up with life. He applies for a position at Four Oaks residential & respite home. He doesn’t do this to improve the lives of others, but simply to find easy and quick employment. He has no idea, how this choice will have a massive impact upon his life.

James is also 36yrs old, he is learning to adapt his lifestyle due to a savage and brutal attack. James was once a wealthy and privileged property develop. He was celebrating being elected as Labour MP for Birmingham South, when he was viciously assaulted. The attack left him with life-changing disabilities. He lives with his parents and enters the respite centre, so that his parents can enjoy a three-week cruise.
It has been three years since the incident that changed his life. Since the incident James has lived a life of ‘playing it safe’ which by my interpretation is surviving not living.

‘Ever since the incident the safe side is all I get to know’ – James

James arrives at Four Oaks and instantly recognises Danny from his past. But James memory is not always to be trusted, due to his acquired brain injury. Danny denies knowing who James is, which leaves James feeling even more confused and convinced that he knows Danny.

The author has written a thoroughly accurate description of a care home. My previous career was not only working in care homes but as management too. I have cared for individuals with acquired brain injuries and their level of needs is extremely complex and individual. Similarly, to dementia, no person is impacted exactly the same and the symptoms vary person to person. The author has done an outstanding level of research and paid attention to the details. I am MASSIVELY impressed.

Danny eventually admits the truth, that he does know how James is. It turns out the two attended the same prestigious boarding school. Danny was attending on scholarship and his intelligence was renowned. Which is why James is confused as to how/why Danny ended up as a carer. But just like James, Danny has a complex backstory too.

‘I just want to be normal’ – James

The two form a friendship based around James’s desire to live as independently as possible and Danny’s attempt at some form of redemption. What flows is a gentle and emotive novel. There are parts that are emotionally charged. One specific part is Martha’s letter, at that precise moment, I just dissolved into tears.

This novel isn’t just about emotion. It actively challenges the view of disability and personal struggle.

Simply beautiful 5*

MG
Mike Gayle
Twitter
Website

Review Delete by Karl Olsberg 5* Q&A to follow!

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Delete by Karl Olsberg 5*
One of my favourite books from 2016.

The synopsis:

A GRIPPING, UP-TO-THE-MINUTE THRILLER FOR FANS OF THE MATRIX, NOMAD AND M. R. CAREY.

For role-playing gamers like Mina and Thomas, reality can blur when you spend too much time online. But when Thomas disappears, not only from the virtual world but also from real life, Mina sets out to search for him. When she discovers that other Berliners have gone missing, all of them participants in the same game, she worries that she will be next.

Chief Inspector Eisenberg heads up a team that is supposed to track and prevent potential terrorists. But identifying suspects via pattern recognition doesn’t help – you can’t arrest someone before a crime has been committed. Faced with uniting a brilliant but unruly team made up of hackers and coders, Eisenberg is drawn into the puzzle of the missing gamers – all of whom had the same in-game experience immediately before they disappeared.

Will Eisenberg and his team be able to unravel the truth from the fiction before it’s too late?

My review:

This year I have read several novels by German writers and I have been hugely impressed. The novels translate well into English and have been easy to follow despite being set in another location and another police force etc.
This novel centres around the online gaming community, technology and most importantly perception of reality. It is very well written and remains gripping right to the very last page.
I am not a gamer or have any interest in artificial intelligence but I picked this novel due to its unique plot of those topics. I loved every minute of the read, it was very complex and the killer was written brilliantly, right down to the disguise.
I was concerned at about 75% in that the ending would suddenly be all tidy and wrapped up. Which would have not been in fitting with the novel. The reality was the ending was one of the best I have read this year! (and this was my 187th novel so far!).
I don’t want to give to much away regarding the plot of the novel or the characters themselves. but they are very well described, there are some with mental health conditions that are so brilliantly portrayed. With the conditions themselves explained superbly.
I would hugely recommend this novel, especially to those interested in gaming & AI, although it is not necessary to have a huge amount of knowledge as the book guides you through the information.
huge praise for the author, I will definitely be reading his future novels!
*I received a free Ebook copy via net galley in return for an honest review.

Delete is available free to Kindle Unlimited members or for 98p to Uk Amazon Kindle users
Q&A to follow with author Karl Olsberg.