Review of Holy Island by L.J. Ross (DCI Ryan #1) – 5 Stars

Holy Island (DCI Ryan Mysteries, #1)Holy Island by L.J. Ross

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I stumbled across this book by chance when it showed up rather cheaply on a Kindle titles sale and the outline sounded quirky and I must say I am very pleased with the find.

This is actually the first of the DCI Ryan detective mysteries series by L.J Ross and it starts the series off with a bang – especially the ending, great job on keeping us readers hooked for the next one in the series. I do think the writing in general was very good, not overly police procedural, plenty of characters to set it up for a series but not too many that you can’t figure out who is who, enough of an intriguing back story about the characters that I suspect may come back to haunt them at a later date. A very strong start to the series.

The plot mainly includes two interlinked storylines/character viewpoints. DCI Ryan has taken a sabbatical from his police duties after a traumatic experience during a murder investigation and temporarily moves to Lindisfarne. After several weeks of calm enjoying the peaceful island, his sabbatical is disrupted when the body of a young woman is found murdered at the priory. The murder looks staged with cult underlying’s and soon more murders in the small island follow. The murderer is smart, leaving very few clues and cleaning the sites so that the investigating team struggles to narrow it down. In the meantime, questioning becomes more and more difficult as the Islanders try to protect their own from outside police interference.

In the second storyline, we follow former local girl Anna who travels back to the island as an informant on the occult. When one of her own family members turns out to be the next murder victim Anna is removed from the case but fearing for her safety and his new-found feelings for her DCI Ryan insists she move into his small cottage that is doubling as police base on the island.

The storylines are very sharp, intricate and clever, but the book itself is not as dark as you would expect for a murder mystery, certainly, there is actually very little gore allowing you to sit back and enjoy the storyline.

I think Ross has done a great job, leaving plenty of room for the characters evolving, in this novel you really feel sorry for Ryan; his mental trauma from his past and how he is suffering trying to suppress those feelings to deal with the new case. I actually finished this book a little while ago but the story and characters still feel very vivid and I think that is a sign of how well the story has been told.

One of the real big highlights for me was the locations. I loved the rugged windswept island and it’s close knit community. The one pub that you need to visit to find out what is going on. Unless you want to risk speaking to the gossipy landlady of the local b&b. All great places and very easy to visualize.

For those that haven’t discovered the DCI Ryan collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to something like Elly Griffiths (Ruth Galloway Series – also very good if you haven’t read that). It is crime but not really dark gritty like rebus or anything, also not a Miss Marple cosy crime, something in the middle.

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Review of Blood Ritual by Sarah Rayne – 5 Stars

Blood RitualBlood Ritual by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book contains the usual mysterious historical fiction and modern day interlinked storylines that Rayne seems to do brilliantly. I thought I had read most of Rayne’s work and then stumbled across this very early novel and at an exceptionally good price and I must say I feel I got a bargain!

It is quite a dark and unnerving as story, similar to her other standalone novels (such as House of the Lost), but certainly much darker than her Nell West series. It is also shrouded in mystery that crosses the line with legend and myth. I would say this story would appeal to horror fans as much as those that like the historical fiction genre.

The modern storyline follows Catherine a young girl from a convent that is urged by her Abbess/Mother Superior to return to where she grew up. However, Catherine has a secret (a few actually), her family are descendants of Elizabeth Bathory, known to locals as the blood countess, something that the rest of her family are much more proud of than Catherine is. The other main modern character is Michael, a journalist who lost his site at the ancient castle once owned by Elizabeth Bathory. Determined to know the truth about the castle and a horrific image he saw before losing his site, he makes his way back towards the place that haunts him. With Catherine and Michael crossing paths can they uncover the truth of the Bathory family history and live to tell the tale?

The historical storyline follows Elizabeth’s story. Re-living the events as she terrorizes the villages of the surrounding area. With a weak husband, an endless supply of young village girls at her service and a lowly blacksmith to do her bidding and surrounded by plenty of faithful servants, Elizabeth rules with an iron fist, so that even the local priest struggles to put a stop to her. The terrifying (and really interesting) thing about this book and this story is that Elizabeth Bathory truly existed and is rumoured to have done some of the terrible things mentioned in this book!

As with all Sarah Rayne books, her plotting is brilliant, she lays many, many, strands of threads for the reader to follow and then brilliantly weaves them all together. It did take me a little longer than normal to get into this book but it was so worth it when I did for the characters, mystery and dark storyline. I do like that Rayne experiments in her writing and tries out many characters’ viewpoints.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, very clever, particularly the historical storylines. For those that haven’t discovered the Sarah Rayne’s writing, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie. Although the dark dividing (standalone novel) is my favourite out Sarah Rayne’s books. The Nell West series she writes is also very good.

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Review of The Kept Woman: (Will Trent Series Book 8) by Karin Slaughter – 5 Stars

The Kept Woman (Will Trent, #8)The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the Will Trent series. It took a while at first to warm to it I’ll admit, mostly due to the fact that I really liked the Grant County series with Jeffrey and hated that he was killed off. Will (the main character in the Will Trent series) was initially as a character too…well… good – too nice – too sweet – too vulnerable. It was certainly a change of pace from Jeffrey. That said I still loved Sara Linton, the character that crosses both series. I also very quickly liked Will’s partner in the series – Faith. Now that we are in the eighth book of the Will Trent series, Karin Slaughter has really found her stride. The characters are so lifelike and complicated yet you cannot help but like the good guys, hate the bad guys and well feel conflicted about those that straddle the worlds of good and bad.

In this novel, we catch up with Will and Sara trying to live their happily ever after and things seem right on track. That is until an ex-police officer is found dead at an abandoned nightclub owned by a famous sports hero who has just escaped a rape charge Will was trying to file against him. Things go from bad to worse when the team examines the scene and all signs point to Will’s ex-wife Angie being the culprit of the attack. Not only does it look like she was involved but the amount of blood lost at the scene means she could be in real danger. Sara’s scene-of-the-crime diagnosis is that they only have a few hours to find Angie before she bleeds out

This book looks big but it is fast reading. Real page-turning action reading. The writing style is fluid, intriguing, and completely engrossing. And the plot… well, it is absolutely jam-packed twists, murder, drama, deception, secrets, lies, heartache and mystery.

I quite liked the way this book was laid out too. The first half follows Will, Sara and the investigation team. Whilst the middle shines the spotlight on Angie. It gives a real insight into her past, her impulse reactions, her motivations and her desire to have Will to herself. She truly is such a conflicting character who you will love, hate, love, hate. Somehow this makes Will’s storyline even more intriguing.

Whilst this is the eighth book in the series I think it could be read as a standalone. In fact, most of the series can as I read it completely out of order initially, so if you see it at a bargain price don’t let the order put you off.

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Review of Deadlight Hall by Sarah Rayne (Nell West #5) – 5 Stars

Deadlight Hall (Nell West/Michael Flint #5)Deadlight Hall by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel continues as entry #5 in the Nell West series and we catch up with Nell and Michael a little after the events of “The Whispering”. In this story, Michael takes the forefront of the strange circumstances with Nell becoming more of the second character and completing the secondary research investigation role. I really enjoyed the author’s ability to switch back and forth making two strong protagonists, that’s strengths differ and keep the series fresh and alive.

In this novel, Rayne also continues along the war theme, this time it is Nazi Germany that is the focus. To be honest the book blurb captures the essence of this story better than I could word it: Leo Rosendale’s childhood was blighted by a macabre tragedy in the grim Deadlight Hall – twin girls vanished, their fate never discovered. What took place there, one long-ago midnight? Michael and his fiancée Nell are unprepared for the shocking truth.

The historical sections of this novel really stand out, very well researched and enjoyable. The novel takes us through various histories of Deadlight hall from the 1870s, the 1940s war evacuation, and then into modern times. The story from Leo’s childhood being the most dramatic of the three storylines. I absolutely love the description of the old house and the wartime era, rules and superstitions captured in this novel really made the storyline vivid.

I think Rayne has done a great job of developing Michael and Nell’s personal relationship too. For returning readers it is handled very well and the progression can be seen, but it’s also not distracting and confusing for first-time readers. Although I would recommend reading the series in order, I think the users could read out of order without too much of a worry. For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie.

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Review of The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne – 5 stars

The Sin EaterThe Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second of the Nell West series by Sarah Rayne (Property of a Lady being the first) and whilst they still have the historical fiction and modern day interlinked storylines that Rayne seems to do brilliantly, they aren’t quite as dark and unnerving as her standalone novels (such as House of the Lost). I did make the mistake of not reading the stories in the correct order and whilst this doesn’t detract too much from the story as it’s quite strong on its own, I do wish I had read them in the correct order as I think the character development of Nell and Michael is such a good minor storyline and would have been better to have read it in the correct order.

In the modern storyline we go with antiques dealer Nell to a Large London house. We meet troubled Benedict Doyle who has inherited the house from his great-grandfather. Benedict finds the house the house disturbing and soon finds himself having troubled dreams featuring the previous occupant, but the events he is dreaming about seem so real. When these dream events are revealed to Michael Flint (Oxford Don who featured in the first novel), his interest is piqued and he starts to research the historical facts behind Benedict’s dreams.

The second storyline for me, made this novel and is why I’ve given it five stars. The story follows Declan and Colm whom move from their Irish home to London city and get caught up in a situation and a world that they never expected to find themselves in.

Other reviewers have complained that Rayne’s writing style has changed with the Nell West series and whilst I agree she has reduced a lot of the darker elements of her writing, I think if anything she has increased the mystery elements of these novels. The storylines are very sharp, intricate and clever, this one surrounds a chess piece yet it is so well written you cannot help but get swept up in the storyline.

I also think Rayne’s characters are evolving, in this novel you really feel sorry for Benedict; his mental condition and how he is suffering as he tries to split what is real from what is imaginary. I actually finished this book a little while ago but the story and characters still feel very vivid and I think that is a sign of how well the story has been told.

For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie.

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Review of Confessions of a GP by Benjamin Daniels – 5 Stars

Confessions of a GPConfessions of a GP by Benjamin Daniels

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Benjamin Daniels takes us right off the pages this book and into his GP surgery. This book is a combination of fly on the wall to some of his daily patient gripes but also an honest reflection of how doctors feel about the situations they find themselves in all as part of their job.

The humour in this book is above all the best thing, scenes such as the young doctor declaring he knew how to “save” someone in a pizza shop (who turned out to just be incredibly intoxicated). There are also several moral dilemmas included in this book that Benjamin had to face – for example if you are called out to do a house-call on a convicted paedophile, how would you feel about helping him? These really got me thinking just what would I do in these types of situations.

Daniels writing style is really laid back and very easy to read and the book isn’t filled with loads of technical nonsense that only other doctors could understand. It is just an interesting account of all the goings on a young doctor goes through while finding his feet in the medical industry. It feels very honest and pragmatic approach to the topics, patients and experiences.

As you can probably tell I really enjoyed this book. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I passed it onto my husband who very rarely would read something like this, he also read it and really enjoyed it.

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Review of How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst – 5 Stars

How I Lost YouHow I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I even opened this book I was hooked, of all the taglines I have seen this has got to be one of the best – “They told her she killed her baby, She served her time, What if they lied?”
This book is about a woman named Susan Webster who is accused of killing her baby Dylan whilst suffering from terrible post-partum depression. Susan has no recollection of the incident but all those around her; doctors, police & even her husband tell her she has done this terrible crime. When she gets out of prison and starts her new life as Emma she receives a photo of a small child claiming to be Dylan. Throwing her fresh start out the window Susan (with some help from a journalist and her previous prison inmate) begins to hunt down the truth. Can she find it in the web of lies that surrounds her?
This is Jenny Blackhurst’s debut novel and she hasn’t half burst her way onto the crime fiction scene. Her writing style is very fluid, sharp and clear keeping you gripped from the very first page. Loads of twists and turns and hints of information and characters dropped in at just the right time. So many underlying secrets that you can’t tell who is a goodie and who is a baddie.
Psychological thriller huge genre with similar stories out there yet this still stands out very much on its own as a great storyline and excellent writing. If you liked Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson style of suspense writing then I think you will enjoy this novel.
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Wow! Dazzling Debut Novel. Can’t wait to read more from this author.

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