Nowhere To Run : a list of books set in isolated locations

With most of the world’s population self-isolating and not being able to go anywhere, I thought I’d put together a wee list of books set in isolated locations. Let’s face it, things could always be worse. You could be somewhere with a murderer on the loose, for instance. Or zombies. Or one of my worst nightmares, on a ship, surrounded by nothing but water. 😱😂

These ten books were some that popped up in my head straight away when I thought of isolated places. I’m sure there are many more.

Anywho, off we go!

Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. Over dinner, a record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. That evening, former reckless driver Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide.

The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but is preparing to strike again… and again…

Of course, I’m kicking things off with the brilliant Agatha Christie. I haven’t read that many of her books yet but this is definitely a favourite.

A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway … until the bodies start piling up. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul. Soon, though, a body turns up–surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. They can’t leave, and with no cell service, there’s no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it’s their first time away. For others, it will be their last.

Note to self : never book a break at a remote lodge in Winter

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up.

Island. Water. Never going to happen.

This was meant to be the perfect trip.

The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.

A chance for travel journalist Lo Blackwood to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse, and to work out what she wants from her relationship.

Except things don’t go as planned.

Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.

Exhausted, emotional and increasingly desperate, Lo has to face the fact that her sleep problems might be driving her mad or she is trapped on a boat with a murderer – and she is the sole witness.

Anyone want to know the odds of little old me ever getting on a cruise ship?

1939: Europe is on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd, a servant girl, boards an ocean liner for Australia. She is on her way to a new life, leaving behind the shadows in her past.
For a humble girl, the passage proves magical – a band, cocktails, fancy dress balls. A time when she is beholden to no one. The exotic locations along the way – Naples, Cairo, Ceylon – allow her to see places she’d only ever dreamed of, and to make friends with people higher up the social scale who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man who she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings. 
But Lily soon realises that her new-found friends are also escaping secrets in their past. As the ship’s glamour fades, the stage is set for something awful to happen. By the time the ship docks, two of Lily’s fellow passengers are dead, war has been declared and Lily’s life will be irrevocably changed.

Like I said, ships are a bad idea.

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.

Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world? 

As far as doom scenarios go, it can’t get much worse than this.

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves. 

Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil. 

As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence. 

Islands are clearly a popular isolated location. This one has no men. Doesn’t sound too bad 🤔

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast. 

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Oh, look! Another island! And a wedding party go wrong. At least there’s champagne 😂

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. 

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard. 

Iceland. Always brings the goods. I know, it’s an island too. Sounds so pretty though. Not that Agnes is in any way able to appreciate that. Such a great novel! Read it! I’ll pimp it until I’m blue in the face!

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. 

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. 

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Quite possible the worst case scenario? All alone on another planet with no means of escape EVER! I don’t know about you but suddenly this self-isolation stuff doesn’t sound so bad, huh?

If you have any suggestions, please do leave them in the comments and I will be more than happy to compile a new list next week with your ideas. Or heck, do a post of your own. That works too!

Have you read any of the books on this list? Would you like to?

I have more lists planned over the next few weeks. I mean, I’m not reading so I might as well make lists, I guess. 😉

Stay safe and take excellent care of yourselves! xx

Keeper by Jessica Moore | @jessicammoor @VikingBooksUK @EllieeHud | #KeeperBook

Today, I join the blog tour for Keeper by Jessica Moore. My thanks to Ellie at Viking Books for the opportunity to join and for the wonderful review copy.

Author : Jessica Moor
Title : Keeper
Pages : 320
Publisher : Viking Books / Penguin UK
Publication date : March 19, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes. 
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside. 

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

| MY THOUGHTS |

He loves you.
He controls you.
He’ll never let you go.

It’s insanely hard to find the words to do this novel justice. Keeper is one of those books that requires time to process. One that made me feel so incredibly angry, it left me wanting to punch something. And even after giving myself that time to sit back and think … guess what. Still bloody angry!

When Katie Straw’s body is found in the river, detectives quickly rule her death a suicide. But not everyone is convinced. The women at the local refuge, where Katie worked, know that danger lurks in every corner and while they may be at what is considered a safe place, somehow death got inside.

Despite the fact that there is a mystery to solve surrounding the death of Katie Straw, this is not your typical crime fiction novel. Keeper is billed as a literary thriller and I’m slightly worried that the “thriller” part will be somewhat misleading to readers who decide to pick this one up. It’s not that kind of thriller, it’s not a fast-paced solve-a-crime sort of novel but more of a character-driven drama with a thriller-ish element to it. (I know what I’m trying to say here but I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of it.) Yet, it is equally compelling, tense and gripping.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but what I got is a dark and powerful story. Told in alternating chapters, we hear from Katie herself and learn about her past, we follow the detectives who are investigating Katie’s death and we are introduced to the women at the refuge. Manipulation and abuse comes in various shapes and sizes and these women’s stories really bring that to the fore. It doesn’t always come like a bolt of lightning, sometimes it’s just there from the beginning and it builds up gradually, so slowly that maybe you don’t even realise it’s happening.

Needless to say this isn’t a comfortable read. It is awfully sad and upsetting. It is unfortunately highly believable and realistic. It is incredibly frightening because it makes you realise this could happen to any one of us. It is chilling, hugely insightful and addictive. Did I mention it made me angry?

Keeper is an incredibly hard-hitting and thought-provoking debut from Jessica Moor and a novel that will undoubtedly stay with me forever. I definitely recommend you give this one a go. Brace yourself for the impact it will have and for the utterly heartbreaking conclusion.

Keeper is out tomorrow! Due to current circumstances, whenever you can, please support your local bookshops!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon UK | Goldsboro | Hive UK | Kobo | Waterstones

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Jessica Moor studied English at Cambridge before completing a Creative Writing MA at Manchester University. Prior to this she spent a year working in the violence against women and girls sector and this experience inspired her first novel, Keeper.

Deep Dark Night by Steph Broadribb | @crimethrillgirl @OrendaBooks | #recommended

My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the review copy!

Author : Steph Broadribb
Title : Deep Dark Night
Series : Lori Anderson #4
Pages : 320
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : March 5, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

A city in darkness. A building in lockdown. A score that can only be settled in blood…

Working off the books for FBI Special Agent Alex Monroe, Florida bounty-hunter Lori Anderson and her partner, JT, head to Chicago. Their mission: to entrap the head of the Cabressa crime family. The bait: a priceless chess set that Cabressa is determined to add to his collection.

An exclusive high-stakes poker game is arranged in the penthouse suite of one of the city’s tallest buildings, with Lori holding the cards in an agreed arrangement to hand over the pieces, one by one. But, as night falls and the game plays out, stakes rise and tempers flare.

When a power failure plunges the city into darkness, the building goes into lockdown. But this isn’t an ordinary blackout, and the men around the poker table aren’t all who they say they are. Hostages are taken, old scores resurface and the players start to die.

And that’s just the beginning…

| MY THOUGHTS |

AIR! I NEED AIR! CAN’T BREATHE!

If there is one thing I should have learned from reading the Lori Anderson series, it’s to have an oxygen tank at the ready because her adventures always leave me gasping for breath and Deep Dark Night is no different! Throw your gym membership in the bin (not that I have one)! This will leave you with the same amount of adrenaline and energy to get you through three marathons. Just not so sweaty. Bonus!

Lori and JT head to Chicago to work an off-the-books operation for FBI Special Agent Monroe. Using a priceless chess set as bait, Lori must try to entrap the head of the Cabressa crime family and hopefully finally get Monroe off her back along the way. But during a high-stakes poker game in the penthouse suite of one of Chicago’s tallest buildings, the power goes out and shit hits the fan. Things what I learned : stay away from penthouse suites. And poker games. And I should probably add mafia to the list as well.

To say Deep Dark Night is action-packed seems like a massive understatement. It’s pretty much all systems go, all the time. Absolutely relentless! It’s also dark in more ways than one and oftentimes immensely claustrophobic. On top of that, people start dropping like flies all over the place and suddenly all you can think about is if Lori and JT will make it out of this precarious situation alive! Because Steph Broadribb has no qualms whatsoever in putting her characters through the wringer and pushing them to some quite extreme limits.

Steph Broadribb knows how to pull a reader in and keep them enthralled from start to finish. I felt I was right there with Lori and JT, in that high-rise building in the dark, desperately trying to find a way out in one piece. Deep Dark Night is an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter of a book, that at times had my heart pumping so hard I thought it would jump right out of my chest. When I finished it, I felt so darn energised I considered running a few laps around the block. And I do not run, people!

The Lori Anderson series is yet another series that just keeps going from strength to strength and all the books would make excellent movies. Each and every book in this series is utterly gripping and addictive. Lori remains one of the fiercest female protagonists out there, most definitely giving all those muscly showing-off kind of male stereotypes a run for their money. I have to say it …. wait for it …. BEST ONE YET and I’ll be first in line to find out where Steph Broadribb takes this series next. Bring it on!

Deep Dark Night is available to buy in ebook format. The UK paperback will be published on March 5th.

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Hive | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

Death Deserved by Thomas Enger & Jørn Lier Horst | @OrendaBooks | #recommended

Author : Thomas Enger & Jørn Lier Horst
Translated by : Anne Bruce
Title : Death Deserved
Series : Blix & Ramm #1
Pages : 276
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : February 20, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Oslo, 2018. Former long-distance runner Sonja Nordstrøm never shows at the launch of her controversial autobiography, Always Number One. When celebrity blogger Emma Ramm visits Nordstrøm’s home later that day, she finds the door unlocked and signs of a struggle inside. A bib with the number ‘one’ has been pinned to the TV.

Police officer Alexander Blix is appointed to head up the missing-persons investigation, but he still bears the emotional scars of a hostage situation nineteen years earlier, when he killed the father of a five-year-old girl. Traces of Nordstrøm soon show up at different locations, but the appearance of the clues appear to be carefully calculated … evidence of a bigger picture that he’s just not seeing…

Blix and Ramm soon join forces, determined to find and stop a merciless killer with a flare for the dramatic, and thirst for attention.
Trouble is, he’s just got his first taste of it…

| MY THOUGHTS |

Holy flying …. kjøttkaker!!!! (that’d be meatballs) I can’t even begin to think about what to say about Death Deserved. Except … I am making space on my shelves for what will undoubtedly become one of my favourite series.

You may remember my sadness when Thomas Enger’s previous series featuring Henning Juul came to an end. That series was my first introduction to Scandi-Noir and a new love affair was born. But now Thomas Enger has embarked on another adventure, alongside Jørn Lier Horst and as I found myself getting introduced to an entirely new premise and a whole new cast of characters, I quickly realised the dark cloud of sadness had lifted. (dramatic much 😳)

A serial killer is targeting celebrities. They have a plan, they are on a mission and they will not be thwarted. The police is in a race against the clock to stop the killer from striking again but this unsub is smart and detectives have very little, if anything, to go on. And the clues they DO find, all seem like they’re calculated, meant to be found when the killer wants them to be.

And off we go with one of the most gripping crime thrillers EVER! Death Deserved had me hook, line and sinker from the very first page and just did not let go. There are so many things in this story that tick the boxes. Engaging characters, an intricate plot, a well-paced game of cat and mouse and an incredibly intriguing serial killer whose identity I couldn’t even begin to guess at. This extremely thrilling ride kept me glued to the pages until the early hours of the morning and it all led to an explosive ending that left me reeling! 🤯

Just like Alexander and Emma, the driving forces behind them are a (former) investigating officer and a journalist and on top of that, both Thomas Enger and Jørn Lier Horst are incredibly popular Norwegian crime writers. Something told me this collaboration was always going to be successful but I wasn’t at all prepared for exactly how much. If this first instalment is anything to go by, I dare say this will be one of the greatest series out there. As it is, I’m already tempted to say it might be even better than the Henning Juul series and considering how much I loved that one, I wasn’t really expecting that to happen. Or not just yet, anyway.

This serial killer crime thriller meets police procedural equals a pounding heart, clammy hands and a desperate need for more. I can’t wait for book two and I urge you, dear reader, to jump onto this rollercoaster ride right now! This might just be a dream team of crime writers and I firmly believe they are a force to be reckoned with. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that, now would you?

Death Deserved is out tomorrow in ebook format. The UK paperback will be published on February 20th.

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

The Other People by C.J. Tudor | @cjtudor @MichaelJBooks | #recommended

Happy publication day to the fabulous C.J. Tudor for her outstanding third book, The Other People!

Author : C.J. Tudor
Title : The Other People
Pages : 416
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : January 23, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

She sleeps, a pale girl in a white room . . .

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window.

She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’

It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them.

Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Warning : possibility of awkward love-fest ahead.

Hell is other people

For the longest time, whenever someone would ask me who my favourite author was, I didn’t even have to think about the answer. (For those who haven’t been keeping up, that’d be Karin Slaughter). But ever since I read The Chalk Man, the answer is coming just that little bit slower and now, on having read C.J. Tudor’s latest book, The Other People, the time may have come to utter the words “move over, Karin!”. So sorry, Karin, it’s not you, it’s me.

The Other People was easily my most anticipated book of the year. I had such high expectations that I was convinced before it even arrived in the post, that I would absolutely love it and no matter how much I tried to temper down that feeling, worrying that I was setting myself up to be disappointed, I couldn’t do it. So obviously I was ecstatic when I realised my expectations were being exceeded. As far as I’m concerned, C.J. Tudor can write me a shopping list and I’ll read it and love it and tell you all to read it too until I’m blue in the face.

First of all, there’s the writing. I can’t even begin to explain why it draws me in as it does. It’s almost magical and completely mesmerising. Some of it is so immensely deep and insightful (come talk to me again when you’ve read about “hope”) and I often find myself nodding as I’m reading along because yes, hitting the nail on the head right there in a way I’m clearly incapable of myself. But the writing is also natural and not conceited in any way. It feels comfortable. It feels as if C.J. Tudor is right here on my sofa, telling me a story and I’m hanging onto every single word. Sometimes I even chuckle, although I’m not entirely sure I’m supposed to (I have an odd sense of humour) but I’d like to think that it’s the author’s way of releasing some of the tension by adding a slightly witty remark or observation.

I’m not going to mention anything about the plot. All you need is in the book description and I won’t add another word to it because I don’t want to give anything away. From the minute I picked up this book though, I knew I wasn’t going to put it down again until I had flipped that final page. The Other People takes “addictive” and “being glued to the pages” to a completely different level. I just HAD to keep reading. Various points-of-view kept me utterly enthralled and while I had a tiny inkling about something, the whole picture completely evaded me. I couldn’t at all even begin to try and figure out how the various storylines were supposed to fit together until C.J. Tudor revealed it to me.

What to say about the characters? Gabe. Gah. My heart broke for him numerous times and his pain, his sense of loss is so intensely palpable. Fran was somewhat more difficult to get my head around but I think that was the point. However, she’s clearly on the run from something or someone and every time panic struck, I was right there with her, heart pounding, hands getting clammy, ready to run.

Atmospheric? Check! Bit of a supernatural vibe? Also, check! Although maybe not as prevalent as in the previous books but it’s there, in the background, in a creepy, chilling kind of way. A mystery to solve? You bet your shiny arse there is. And then let’s add all those other words people are getting tired of hearing : gripping, compelling, engrossing, a page-turner, addictive, impossible to put down (IT REALLY IS!) …. all that and so, so much more! Sometimes quite sad, mostly full of suspense and questions. So many questions. Did I mention impossible to put down? (Just checking)

Dare I say it? You know what? Yes. I’m going to say it. This is C.J. Tudor’s BEST book yet and it is without a doubt a huge contender for my book of the year. Right now, it has caused a massive book hangover. I loved everything about it, in case you hadn’t noticed, and I’m sad this thrilling ride is over.

By the way, my hardback copy has a teaser chapter of C.J. Tudor’s next book (out next year) and I already can’t wait! It promises to be another absolute belter but for now, do yourself a favour, pick up a copy of The Other People because I promise you, C.J. Tudor is the real deal.

To recap, I’d like to borrow a tiny part from my review for The Taking of Annie Thorne, which is just as apt here :

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! x infinity (😉)

The Other People is available to buy!

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza | @RobertBryndza @TheCrimeVault | #NineElms

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza. My thanks to Kirsteen at Little Brown for the opportunity to join and for the review copy!

Author : Robert Bryndza
Title : Nine Elms
Series : Kate Marshall #1
Pages : 400
Publisher : Sphere
Publication date : January 9, 2020 (hardcover)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Sixteen years ago, Kate Marshall was a rising star in the London Metropolitan police force. Young, ambitious and driven, with a talent for getting into the minds of criminals, she solved several high-profile murder cases.

But when Kate was tasked with tracking down a vicious serial killer, even her instinct and ability to immerse herself in violent worlds couldn’t help her find him – until he found her.

Now, years after her narrow escape, Kate lives a quiet life on the English coast, though her years with the police are still with her. And when one day she receives a letter from someone in her past, she is pulled back into the twisted mind of a murderer she knows only too well – and into a case only she can solve.

| MY THOUGHTS |

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Robert Bryndza and his crime fiction series featuring Erika Foster. But now he’s back with a brand-new series and an equally brand-new exciting female protagonist.

Sixteen years ago, Kate Marshall was a detective working for the London Metropolitan Police. Kate ended up on the wrong side of a serial killer case. With her career and reputation in tatters, she relocated to the English coast, where she now works in academia. But the past is about to catch up with her.

Back in 1995, there was a spate of brutal murders. And now, it looks as if someone is trying to recreate that sequence of events. There is no doubt the “Nine Elms” serial killer is behind bars and investigators are dealing with a copycat. But who and why? And what is their end game?

As far as introducing the reader to a new series goes, this is right up there. There is so much going on in this first instalment and the intriguing premise of Kate’s past pulled me in from the get-go. Not only are we faced with a copycat killer but there is an unsolved missing persons case which may just tie in with the original Nine Elms serial killer. And throughout it all, the reader gets to know the character of Kate Marshall as she is forced to confront her past. Kate quite quickly proves herself to be a determined woman who, despite having left the force all those years ago, has never been able to shake off her “copper’s nose” and with her assistant Tristan by her side, we immediately get an exciting new investigative team. Albeit it with a different spin to it as obviously Kate doesn’t have a badge or access to various spiffy databases. All she has is experience, knowledge and her instincts.

Did I mention these murders are particularly brutal and gruesome? I’m not of the squeamish variety most of the time, especially not while reading, but good grief … let’s just say I often muttered the words “ugh, eww”. Yet, I felt those details were important to drive home how despicable the Nine Elms serial killer and his copycat are. Underneath it all is a fascinating insight into mother and son relationships, even if they’re leaning towards a whole new level of dysfunctional, and that always thrilling topic of nature versus nurture.

The Erika Foster series was hugely successful for Robert Bryndza and I have no doubt this new series featuring Kate Marshall will be equally so. The compelling Nine Elms is an amazing way to kick it off and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Kate and Tristan.

Nine Elms is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Robert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestselling Detective Erika Foster series. Robert’s books have sold over 3 million copies and have been translated into 28 languages. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

The Six by Luca Veste

Author : Luca Veste
Title : The Six
Pages : 400
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Publication date : December 26, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Six friends trapped by one dark secret.

It was supposed to be our last weekend away as friends, before marriage and respectability beckoned. But what happened that Saturday changed everything.

In the middle of the night, someone died. The six of us promised each other we would not tell anyone about the body we buried. But now the pact has been broken. And the killing has started again …

Who knows what we did? And what price will we pay?

| MY THOUGHTS |

Despite having had Luca Veste’s previous book, The Bone Collector, stashed away somewhere for ages, this is actually my first time reading one of his books. I mean, who could possibly resist that incredibly intriguing book description, right?

Six friends decide to spend a weekend camping out at a music festival. This could be the last time they can do something like this together before responsibilities get in the way and they are determined to make the most of this weekend away. But things do not exactly go as planned. Someone dies. The six friends vow never to talk to anyone about what happened that weekend and yet, it seems someone knows what they did and the time has come for the six to pay the price.

The Six ended up being somewhat of a story in two parts for me. The actual events of that weekend are super tense and sometimes slightly creepy in that whole “I’m never setting foot in a forest or going camping ever again” kind of way. This first half grabbed my attention from the get-go. It was utterly compelling and a true page-turner. However, the second half slowed down quite a bit and became just a tad predictable, in that way where you know what’s coming and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll figure out the who rather easily as well. I almost I reached that point where I thought “just wrap it up already”, and that’s never a good sign.

Nevertheless, as a whole, The Six is gripping and a well-written suspenseful crime thriller with extremely fun back-to-the-90’s vibes, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s clever, hugely character driven and quite unsettling at times. In the midst of a reading slump, I read this one in one afternoon and despite some of my misgivings, I think that’s really saying something. I’m calling my first introduction to Luca Veste’s books a success and I’ll definitely be trying one of his books again some time.

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

The Six will be published on December 26th.

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Top 15 Favourite Series of 2019

It’s that time of year again, when I look back on all the brilliant books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. December seems to be coming around faster and faster. As predicted, 2019 was a fantastic year for books and putting these end-of-year lists together was tough!

Like last year, I’ve split my favourite books of the year up into two different posts. Today, the focus lies on additions to series. I seem to have read less of them this year, hence the slightly odd number of 15. But they’re all corkers!

So here we go, in random order : my 15 favourite series of 2019.

| Victoria Jenkins – Detectives King & Lane |

The fourth and final book in the King & Lane series. Back when I picked up the first book, The Girls in the Water, I just knew I was in for something special. There was something about Victoria Jenkins’ writing, the incredible plotting and the absolutely fantastic main female characters that got my pulse racing. Every book since then just got better and better and now here we are, at the end. It’s been an incredibly thrilling ride and if this is the end, then it’s a fabulous way to go.

| Rachel Abbott – DCI Tom Douglas |

The Shape of Lies is book 8 and another fantastic addition to the DCI Tom Douglas series. Full of suspense and intrigue, it makes for one gripping and tense read. I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with Tom and Becky again and I hope to see them back again soon. In the meantime, you have time to get caught up if you haven’t done so already because this truly is a fantastic crime series that should be on everyone’s radar and Rachel Abbott is an author who should most definitely be on your bookshelf.

| David Jackson – DS Nathan Cody |

Your Deepest Fear is dark, disturbing and insanely tense. It’s so fast paced, it almost felt relentless at times and left me in desperate need of a breather. My heart was pounding, my hands were clammy and I was trying extremely hard to figure out how it would all end. What an incredible addition to an already outstanding series! I dare say this is even the best one yet and I urge you all to read this series, if you’re not doing so already. I highly recommend it.

| Helen Fields – DI Luc Callanach |

Honestly, if you’re not reading this series, I am judging you like a big, bad judging thing! This is one of the best crime fiction series out there and you are sorely missing out! And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

| Angela Marsons – DI Kim Stone |

The writing machine that is Angela Marsons struck again in 2019 with no less than THREE additions to the brilliant DI Kim Stone series. Still going strong, still insanely gripping and addictive and now with the added bonus of a prequel to find out where it all began.

| Stephanie Broadribb – Lori Anderson |

This series has been a total blast from the very first book and Deep Dirty Truth is without a doubt THE BEST ONE YET! Oh yes! I said it! Fast-paced, with characters to get invested in and root for and edge-of-your-seat action galore, this is sheer entertainment of the highest level! Stock up on snacks and maybe an oxygen tank and enjoy the rollercoaster ride! Your legs may feel like jelly at the end of it, but it’ll be worth it!

| Karin Slaughter – Will Trent |

If there’s a Karin Slaughter book, you’d better believe it will make my list. It’s been quite the wait for a new addition to the Will Trent series but it was worth it. Karin Slaughter firmly cemented her spot as my favourite author and The Last Widow is taught, sharp and with a focus on hard-hitting and tough topics.

| Cara Hunter – DI Adam Fawley |

If you’re sitting there wondering if you need another crime fiction series in your life, the answer is “yes” and this right here is that series. I highly recommend you add this one to your shelves. It is one of the best crime fiction series out there and a definite must-read! Just so you know, book four is published in January and available for preorder. I have no doubt you’ll be seeing it here at some point.

| Matt Wesolowski – Six Stories |

Changeling was one of my most anticipated releases this year and it did not disappoint! If you’re not familiar with the Six Stories series (OMG WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!), it’s centred around a true crime podcast in which Scott King investigates cold cases. Changeling is book 3 in the Six Stories series and it is one of those stories that worms its way under your skin, one that will just not let you go. Dark, disturbing and chilling, Changeling had my heartbeat racing throughout and I was gripping the pages so tightly that my knuckles turned white! This tremendously addictive page-turner is insanely thought-provoking and also absolutely terrifying, though possibly not in the way you might expect.

| Will Dean – Tuva Moodyson |

Nothing is quite what it seems in Red Snow. With intriguing and complex characters and a deliciously intricate plot, this novel had me staying up way too late in a desperate attempt to finish it. But I just had to know what was going on. I didn’t count on Will Dean’s devious mind though, which meant that the final pages came at me like a knockout punch to the gut that left me winded but also caused so much adrenaline to course right through me, I felt like I could have gone out and run a marathon! I can’t wait for Tuva 3, out in March!

| Sarah Hilary – DI Marnie Rome |

Please tell me you are reading this series. It’s been absolutely outstanding from the very beginning and I don’t know how she does it, but Sarah Hilary manages to outdo herself time and time again, bringing each book in this series to a whole other level. At the risk of repeating myself, because I’m pretty sure I say this every time, this is the best one in the series yet and Sarah Hilary is an author who deserves all the praise. She continues to impress me with her remarkable storylines, utterly brilliant character development and fantastic writing. There are so many lines I could quote but I won’t because I’d be here all day and obviously you just need to read this book (and the rest of the series) for yourself.

| Bella Ellis – The Brontë Mysteries |

The Vanished Bride is the first book in a brand-new series by Bella Ellis, which is a pen name for the incredibly amazing Rowan Coleman. I knew the minute I started reading this book that it would make my list. I absolutely can’t wait to hang out with these three delightful characters again.

| Johana Gustawsson – Roy & Castells |

Few crime fiction series leave me feeling like I’ve been punched in the gut numerous times, wanting to curl up into a tiny ball under my duvet, but Johana Gustawsson manages it every single time. Johana Gustawsson is a remarkable talent and I continue to be absolutely impressed by the way she manages to combine modern crime fiction with some of history’s most shocking eras and the atrocious things humans are capable of. I can’t recommend this powerful read, and this entire series, enough and I absolutely can’t wait for more! 

| Joseph Knox – Aidan Waits |

This series is one I’ve been with from the beginning. In fact, Sirens was the book that first made me start thinking about blogging because I needed a place to shout about its awesomeness. Since then, Joseph Knox has been raising the bar, with each book being even stronger than the previous one. Like its predecessors, The Sleepwalker is masterfully plotted, immensely dark, extremely gritty and completely engrossing from start to finish. Joseph Knox is an incredible talent and the Aidan Waits series is absolutely outstanding. Every single one of these books has caused a massive book hangover and The Sleepwalker is no different. I can’t recommend these books enough! They NEED to be on any crime fiction fan’s bookshelf. I promise you, you will not regret it for one second!

| M.W. Craven – Washington Poe & Tilly Bradshaw |

How can someone be both dead and alive at the same time? This intriguing question is for Poe and Tilly to find out in Black Summer, the incredible follow-up to The Puppet Show. It doesn’t matter whether your Team Poe or Team Tilly but you should most definitely be Team Craven. A truly gripping, addictive page-turner, Black Summer is sure to leave you wanting more and as luck will have it, book 3 will be out next year. I, for one, can’t wait!

And there you have it. The series that made my heart beat that little faster, made my hands go clammy and that left such an impression on me that adding them to this list was a total no-brainer.

Now is your chance to kick my bum (virtually, thank you) and tell me which series I’ve left out. Are there some you don’t agree with? Are there any you can’t wait to read? 

Hope you find something you like here and I’ve given you some ideas. Next week, I’ll be sharing my list of favourite stand-alones of 2019. Until then, I wish you lots of happy reading! xx

The Guardians by John Grisham

Author : John Grisham
Title : The Guardians
Pages : 368
Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date : October 15, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

He was framed for murder.
Now he needs a miracle. 

22 years ago Quincy Miller was sentenced to life without parole. He was accused of killing Keith Russo, a lawyer in a small Florida town. But there were no reliable witnesses and little motive. Just the fact that Russo had botched Quincy’s divorce case, that Quincy was black in a largely all-white town and that a blood-splattered torch was found in the boot of Quincy’s car. A torch he swore was planted. A torch that was conveniently destroyed in a fire just before his trial.

The lack of evidence made no difference to judge or jury. In the eyes of the law Quincy was guilty and, no matter how often he protested his innocence, his punishment was life in prison.

Finally, after 22 years, comes Quincy’s one and only chance of freedom. An innocence lawyer and minister, Cullen Post, takes on his case. Post has exonerated eight men in the last ten years. He intends to make Quincy the next.

But there were powerful and ruthless people behind Russo’s murder. They prefer that an innocent man dies in jail rather than one of them. There’s one way to guarantee that. They killed one lawyer 22 years ago, and they’ll kill another without a second thought.

| MY THOUGHTS |

As a longtime John Grisham fan, I am always eagerly awaiting a new book by him. Even though, I must admit that some of his work in recent years has been awfully hit or miss with me. So it was with a small sense of apprehension that I decided to pick up The Guardians.

After spending 22 years in prison, Quincy Miller catches the attention of a project called The Guardians and a lawyer/minister by the name of Cullen Post. The Guardians are convinced of Miller’s innocence in the murder of a local lawyer and are determined to fight for his release. In the last ten years, this innocence project has managed to get eight innocent people out of prison but Miller’s case is a tough nut to crack. Twenty-two years is a long time. Judges, members of the law enforcement and prosecutors have retired or are dead. Witnesses are spread far and wide across the country, some unwilling to talk or trying very hard not to be found. Evidence has gone missing. On top of that, powerful and ruthless people are perfectly okay with having an innocent man in prison. So where do you even begin?

It hasn’t happened in a while with John Grisham’s books, but from the very first page I had a good feeling about The Guardians. John Grisham remains one of the most excellent storytellers out there and with Cullen Post, he has created a fascinating and engaging character who deftly guides us through a cleverly and well-written plot of murder, miscarriages of justice and corruption. Cullen Post is an easy character to like. Fierce, determined, willing to go that extra mile (sometimes even literally) and all of this, combined with where he started, puts you firmly on his side.

The Guardians turned out to be quite the addictive page-turner for me and I felt John Grisham really brought home how much of the success of these cases depends on which judge is sitting in front of you, who’s willing to listen and keep an open mind and sadly also, the political games that are always going on behind the scenes. Quincy Miller’s circumstances are realistic and believable and because you know these things unfortunately happen (way more often than they should), it’s not that hard to feel angry and frustrated. Do also make sure you read the author’s note at the end of the book.

Is this Grisham at his best? Well, no. But he’s getting mighty close and after some of the recent disappointments, that’s already saying quite a lot and I can honestly say I really enjoyed this one. Truth be told, I’ll be right there at the front of the line when he publishes his next book anyway but I’ll never give up hoping for another absolute corker like “A Time To Kill” was, for instance.

The Guardians is available to buy!

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Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr. | @damppebbles

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr. I have an extract to share with you today but first, here is what the book is all about.

Author : N. Lombardi Jr
Title : Justice Gone
Pages : 336
Publisher : Roundfire Books
Publication date : February 22, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down. A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase. Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers get there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture. Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge?

| EXTRACT |

Another session was called to collate, coordinate, and brainstorm, but this one was held in the mayor’s office, at his honor’s insistence that he not be kept out of the loop. To say that he was distressed was like calling Mount Everest a molehill. The citizens were in nothing less than an uproar, and he was supposed to be the man in charge. When he had campaigned for mayor he hadn’t foreseen a challenge like this. Never knew that his blood pressure could rise so high that he had to consult his cardiologist, or that his ulcer would act up after all these years. And the pain in his gut only increased when he realized he was helpless to rescue the situation. This thing has fucking gone global now, worldwide coverage for heaven’s sake, he had decried to the city attorney Burns just hours before.

The same law enforcement officials that attended the first meeting were there at this one, except for Agent Crawford of the FBI, who was more than spoken for by his bare-headed partner. Everyone around the conference table looked glum, and this alarmed the mayor.“I would like Chief Peterson to give me the introductory summary… you know…the quick and dirty, and then I would like to hear from all of you.” The mayor turned his head. “Len?” “First of all, I would like to thank the FBI and the New Jersey State Police Investigations Branch, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office, for their assistance in this investigation.” Peterson cleared his throat. “On September 23 we received a 911 request to proceed to the home of Victor Fratollini, possible homicide. That was about five-fifteen. Then, some forty minutes later, there was another 911 call directing us to the home of John Fox…”

“Is this the quick and dirty, Len?” the mayor asked.
Peterson looked up, embarrassed. “Within two, two-and-a-half hours, three of the officers involved in the Felson incident were shot dead. The autopsy report was consistent with the crime scene assessment that only one fatal bullet was fired in each case, all of them exiting the bodies and recovered at each of the scenes. Caliber .308, most probably used with a Remington 700 model, which is consistent with military rifles of at least two branches of the armed services, the Army and the Marines. Marshal Felson was picked up for questioning…”

“Hold it right there. I’ve heard about that, more than I care to, and his lawyer contacted our lawyer, Burns, and threatened yet another civil suit, malicious prosecution. What the hell was that all about?”
Gerhard intervened. “We had a no-knock warrant, sir.” “So you just busted in? Is he a principal suspect?”
Peterson interjected. “We consider him a person of interest at this time. But he has an alibi. His sister claims she slept over that night and attests that Felson was home from the afternoon until the time of the killings.”
“Well, can we rule him out then?’ “She could be lying,” Gerhard stated.
“What makes you say that?’
Peterson answered. “She refuses to come down and make a statement without her lawyer, and the same for her commitment to testify in case of a trial.”
“Actually,” Detective Cavaluzzi broke in, “her exact words were”—he read from his notepad—”I would be reluctant to give any formal statement regarding my brother, let alone testify, without consulting my lawyer.”
“We should be applying more pressure on that woman!” Gerhard said loudly. “Forensics showed his gun was recently discharged, and ballistics show a significant amount of consistency with the recovered bullets.”

The direction the conversation was going distressed Peterson, and he sought to divert it. “I think it’s time to give the results of the autopsy and ballistics reports, and our analysis based on these.” He shuffled some papers he had been keeping on the table before him, then read it verbatim using the coroner’s technical language, which more than annoyed the mayor.

“So what is all that anatomical jargon come to for Chrissake?”
“It means,” Gerhard announced from his end of the table, “that this killer is not only clever, calculating, and precise, but sadistic as well. With just one bullet, he inflicted the maximum amount of pain a single gunshot wound could inflict, aiming at the edges of bones to cause maximum deflection with minimum loss of kinetic energy. In other words he deliberately shot them in a way that would rip them apart. And he went so far as to modify the bullets to ensure this.”
“What do you mean, modify the bullets?” the mayor asked.

The bald FBI man, Agent Dirksen, explained. “There are indentations machined on the bullets. They didn’t come from the manufacturer that way. Increases the wobble to the spin.”
The mayor raised his eyebrows. “Wobble? Spin?”
“The reason rifles are called rifles,” Gerhard broke in, “is because there’s rifling inside the barrels, grooves that cause the bullet to spin for more accurate trajectories, like how a quarterback throws a football. In this case, with these custom- made bullets, the indentations we found on them are at right angles to the rifling, causing them to vibrate as well, and this vibration amplifies when they encounter soft tissue. Sick, yes, but that’s the kind of person we’re dealing with here.”

“But it’s not Felson!” Peterson insisted.
Agent Dirksen, spoke up again. “I don’t think so either. After a thorough search, a footprint has been found in the woods behind Puente’s house. It’s clear that the gunman started his killing binge at the most exposed place, Fratollini’s suburban neighborhood, then on to Fox’s dead end lane nearby, and finishing at a place that verges on forest. We think that was his escape route, and that’s why he wasn’t intercepted on any road. He might still be in the woods.”
“Don’t tell me…” the mayor protested.
But Agent Dirksen continued, “We recommend a full-scale manhunt in the wooded areas from the south of Asarn County up to the Delaware Water Gap to the north.”
The mayor threw up his hands. “Well, hell’s bells! What else is coming to put yet another nail on my goddamn cross! Hunting season has just opened!”
“Looks like it’ll have to be postponed for a while,” Gerhard said with a hint of gloating.

If this extract has left you wanting to find out more, then you can grab yourself a copy of Justice Gone now!

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| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).

In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.
Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc. http://plainofjars.net

His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.

His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.

Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.