The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists (Detective Varg, #0.8)

The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ulf Varg is a detective in the Department of Sensitive Crimes. He and his colleagues have been asked to look into a case of a pedigree cat whose kittens are not as expected but Ulf is distracted by a request from his brother, the leader of the Moderate Extremists party, to investigate a leak.

Much in the spirit of the No 1 ladies, this is a charming short story of everyday life and its trials focussing on a Swedish policeman and his colleagues. Although this is a short story, it is a proper story (rather than an advert for another novel as some of them turn out to be) and I absolutely loved it. If you love the slow pace of Alexander McCall Smith’s novels, you can’t go wrong with this! Highly recommended.

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The Last Widow (Will Trent, #9)

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A scientist from the CDC is kidnapped and then, whilst working in the garden, Will Trent and Sara Linton hear bombs going off. They rush to help only to be caught up in the drama themselves. Can Will throw his normal caution to the wind and get to Sara in time to save her from a group with a very nasty agenda?

I love the Grant County novels and have read everything about Will and Sara separately and together. As usual Karin Slaughter keeps us guessing, this time by putting Will and Sara right at the centre of the action and there’s a great deal of that going on here too.

The themes of this novel are enormously topical and Will and Sara navigate everything with their usual gritty determination. There’s a bit more about their ongoing relationship this time and it’s nice that this story allows that to happen rather than shoe horning it in as an extra. Sara’s parents and sister also feature prominently here, again a function of a story which doesn’t need the back story of a new victim since we know the one involved here very well indeed.

If you haven’t read any of the Grant County novels, you could happily start with this one as they stand alone really well, but there are major spoilers for the earlier books if you do want to read them so if you’re lucky enough to have that pleasure ahead I should start at the beginning. Otherwise settle down and enjoy it – you won’t be disappointed!

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Lock Every Door

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jules has no family and no job and has recently split up with her boyfriend so needs to find somewhere to live. Desperate, she applies to house sit at The Bartholomew, a gorgeous apartment block overlooking Central Park and is accepted. There is, however, no such thing as a free lunch and jules starts to worry about why she’s really there. When a fellow apartment sitter disappears and Jules starts to look for her, the stories that she has heard about The Bartholomew might be truer than she thinks.

I quite liked this book but it never really grabbed me until right at the end. It’s clear from the start that something peculiar is going on and the story just seems to take an enormous amount of time to get going so rather than feeling like a tense thriller, it just feels like a story taking too long to tell.

It might be because I just didn’t feel I got to know Jules, or indeed any of the other residents, enough to care about them one way or another. I do like to feel empathy with the characters I read about and I just didn’t feel anything much about her at all.

I wonder if this is a short story rather than a novel and whether it would be more suspenseful written in that genre. Either way, it’s perfectly readable but definitely not one of my favourites.

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Black Moss

Black Moss by David Nolan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A child is killed and his body found at the Black Moss reservoir and novice reporter Danny Johnston is sent to cover the story because all the “big guns” are covering the Strangeways riot. Whilst Danny is there, the wind blows and he sees the body by mistake. Now Danny wants to know all about what happened to the little boy and, more importantly, why nobody else seems to care.

My husband bought me this book because he went to a meeting where the author was speaking and he knows I like crime novels. It isn’t one I would pick up particularly because it doesn’t really stand out as different to others of the genre and, having read it, that opinion hasn’t changed for me. Nevertheless, I do indeed like crime novels and this one is well written with some interesting characters so it wasn’t a hardship to read, it just didn’t really grab my imagination either.

A perfectly good book but not one I would rush to recommend.

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Legendary (Caraval, #2)

Legendary by Stephanie Garber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tella and Scarlett are back at Caraval but this time Tella is in the driving seat and she’s made a bargain – find out Legend’s real name and free her mother. Only Caraval is never what it seems and finding Legend might take more than she has to give.

I do love magical realities and the characters in Caraval are just up my street – there are intrigues and a bit of danger and the strongest relationship is between the sisters which I absolutely love (thank you, Frozen). Legendary carries on straight after Caraval but through the eyes of Tella who has a completely different reason for playing which is just as fascinating.

Tella, Scarlett and Dante play large in this novel along with some minor old and new supporting cast members and the beautiful backdrop of Caraval. It is still a tiny bit superficial for me (hence 4 stars rather than 5) but I really did enjoy it and would definitely recommend it (but read Caraval first…)

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The Friend Who Lied

The Friend Who Lied by Rachel Amphlett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lisa and four of her friends go out to “celebrate”; she needs a kidney transplant and she’s running out of time so they need to do something fairly sedate, like go to an Escape Room perhaps. Then Lisa wakes up in hospital and it turns out that the Escape Room wasn’t such a good idea, particularly since not everyone managed to escape!

This is a fairly predictable thriller told from multiple points of view – mostly Lisa who doesn’t really know what happened, but also David, Hayley and Bec who were there too. This is a reasonably good device but of course it suffers from the fact that the person who we see most knows the least and so the story moves along fairly slowly.

I have seen this book compared to “The Hunting Party” and I think that’s a good comparison since I had the same impression of that as I do of this, namely that most of the people are pretty unpleasant and the reader doesn’t really know what’s going on any more than the main character does. I don’t mind a first person thriller at all, but I do think both of these have suffered from trying too hard to write in the first person at the expense of the plot and it may have been better to be a little more objective.

Having said that, this is a reasonable read which I think most crime thriller readers would enjoy but it wouldn’t go to the top of my TBR pile!

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Broken Promise (Promise Falls, #1)

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Journalist David Harwood and his son move back to Promise Falls from Boston after the death of David’s wife. Soon after, an “angel” appears to David’s cousin, Marla, with a baby boy for her to look after. Since Marla lost her own child the previous year, the family are very concerned about where this baby has come from and who the “angel” really is. They should be! Soon David is caught up in a terrible series of events that are running out of his control and are heading directly to the roots of his family tree.

I really liked some of this book – the mystery involving Marla and the baby is well written and would work very well. Unfortunately, the author seems to have decided to use this novel as a springboard for a series (presumably about David) and so we have many side stories and nods to other plots that are just not necessary and, in the end, very dissatisfying.

I would prefer not to almost be forced into reading the next one and, in fact, don’t really have any intention of doing so. This one was fine but I have many better on my list that I would have preferred to read instead.

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Never Be Broken (DI Marnie Rome, #6)

Never Be Broken by Sarah Hilary

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Children are being killed and Marnie and Noah are assigned to investigate Erskine Towers, a local tower block, which appears to be the epicentre. Noah is not alone however; wherever he goes Sol goes too. Only Sol is dead and Noah needs his wits about him for this case or he won’t be the only one…

I love the Marnie Rome series – I read them as soon as they are published, I recommend them to everyone and I always vote for them in any crime series awards; I love Noah and Marnie and their partners and friends but I mostly love the fact that they are intelligent stories that are three dimensional in their telling and in the sympathetic way that all the characters are portrayed.

“Never Be Broken” is no exception to the above and, once again, Sarah Hilary deals sensitively and carefully with a thorny issue (this time it’s gang culture) in which many of the participants are just as much victims as criminals and in which nothing is ever as it seems.

I would recommend reading the series in order or, at the very least reading “Come and Find Me” before this one as there are a few loose ends from that tied up here (and it’s fabulous) and because Hilary credits her readers with enough about them not to have to repeat the back story every time “just in case”.

This is a wonderful, thought provoking read from one of my all time favourite authors and I can’t recommend it highly enough. When’s the next one?

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The Blame Game

The Blame Game by C.J. Cooke

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Helen, Michael and their children are on holiday but their lives are changed dramatically when they are involved in a road traffic accident. Suddenly, there are questions? Was the accident really an accident and, if not, was it to do with what happened to Helen and Michael 22 years ago?

This is a very light read which promised much but just didn’t set the world on fire for me. I think the trouble is that the big “secret” isn’t really a secret and was not only predictable but actually should never have been a secret in the first place.

The book is written from multiple points of view (Helen, Michael and their son, Reuben) which can be a great device when it adds to the story but, again, appeared to be neither her nor there in this one.

I think perhaps the big issue is that there isn’t enough character building going on and so I struggled to like any of them. Jeanne has a “secretive” boyfriend who isn’t secretive at all and Helen and Michael just aren’t that interesting.

All in all, this is a pleasant read for a time when you don’t want to think very much – I recommend taking it on holiday to read around the pool and leaving it there!

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The Man Who Watched Women

The Man Who Watched Women by Michael Hjorth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some years ago, Sebastian Bergman helped to catch a serial killer. Now Edward Hinde is “back” although the man himself is in prison so it must be a copycat. Meanwhile, Bergman’s life is not going well and he needs this investigation to get him back on track. However, it seems that Hinde has bigger plans for him than he can possibly imagine.

I didn’t realise that this was the second book in the series and, although it didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of it, if I’d known I would have liked to read the first one first. Nevertheless, “The Man who watched Women” stands alone well and I did very much enjoy it.

Sebastian Bergman is well portrayed as a character who is most definitely fraying at the edges. He is really the central character, but the supporting cast of characters are also very well rounded and I did enjoy reading about all of the police personnel working on the case (although I did find Ellinor exceedingly grating).

This is more of a character driven thriller than a procedural and I think that part of it worked well. There were some back stories that I didn’t think were that relevant but they didn’t detract from my enjoyment overall and I would definitely go back to read the first one on the back of this one.

An enjoyable thriller if you want the chase without deep thought!

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