The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson

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Gloria Harkness lives in a ramshackle cottage with only her aging dog and cats for company. The cottage lies within the grounds of a care home in which Gloria’s teenage son lives.  Her life is quiet, her days filled with work as a registrar and her evenings spent visiting her son and trying to keep the cottage in a habitable condition.  All this changes one night when a childhood friend turns up at her door.  He claims that he is being stalked and has been coerced into meeting his stalker nearby.  Gloria finds herself in the middle of a situation which she fears could threaten the very future of the care home and her son.

I found this book fairly slow to get moving but it was very atmospheric and Gloria is a very likeable character. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that the care home was briefly used as an alternative school until the death of a pupil resulted in its closure.  The fate of its former pupils becomes intrinsically entwined in the current mystery.  I must confess to having some difficulty keeping track of who was in the school at the start but just as Gloria becomes familiar with their stories, so do we.

I would recommend The Child Garden if you enjoy a tense, slow-burning mystery.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 New Thrillers to Watch Out For

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Earthly Remains by Donna Leon (6 Apr 2017)
During the interrogation of an entitled, arrogant man suspected of giving drugs to a young girl who then died, Commissario Guido Brunetti acts rashly, doing something he will quickly come to regret. In the aftermath, he begins to doubt his career choices and realises that he needs a break from the stifling problems of his work.

Granted leave from the Questura, Brunetti is shipped off by his wife, Paola, to a villa owned by a wealthy relative on Sant’Erasmo, one of the largest islands in the Venetian laguna. There he intends to pass his days rowing, and his nights reading Pliny’s Natural History.

The recuperative stay goes according to plan and Brunetti is finally able to relax, until Davide Casati, the caretaker of the house, goes missing following a sudden storm. Nobody can find him – not his daughter, not his friends, and not the woman he’d been secretly visiting. Now, Brunetti feels compelled to investigate, to set aside his holiday and discover what happened to the man who had recently become his friend.

In Earthly Remains, Donna Leon shows Venice through an insider’s eyes. From family meals and vaporetti rides to the never-ending influx of tourists and suffocating political corruption, the details and rhythms of everyday Venetian life are at the core of this thrilling novel, and of the terrible crime at its heart.

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A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly (6 April 2017)
It is deep winter. The darkness is unending.

The private detective named Jaycob Eklund has vanished, and Charlie Parker is dispatched to track him down. Parker’s employer, Edgar Ross, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has his own reasons for wanting Eklund found.

Eklund is no ordinary investigator. He is obsessively tracking a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to reports of hauntings. Now Parker will be drawn into Eklund’s world, a realm in which the monstrous Mother rules a crumbling criminal empire, in which men strike bargains with angels, and in which the innocent and guilty alike are pawns in a game of ghosts . . .

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The Burial Hour by Jeffery Deaver (11 April 2017)
DANGEROUSLY GOOD. DISTINCTIVELY DEAVER.
New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver returns to forensic detective Lincoln Rhyme in his most harrowing case yet.

A businessman snatched from an Upper East Side street in broad daylight. A miniature hangman’s noose left at the scene. A nine-year-old girl, the only witness to the crime. With a crime scene this puzzling, forensic expertise of the highest order is absolutely essential. Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are called in to investigate.
Soon the case takes a stranger turn: a recording surfaces of the victim being slowly hanged, his desperate gasps the backdrop to an eerie piece of music. The video is marked as the work of The Composer…
Despite their best efforts, the suspect gets away. So when a similar kidnapping occurs on a dusty road outside Naples, Italy, Rhyme and Sachs don’t hesitate to rejoin the hunt.
But the search is now a complex case of international cooperation–and not all those involved may be who they seem. Sachs and Rhyme find themselves playing a dangerous game, with lives all across the globe hanging in the balance.

one-perfect-lieOne Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline (11 April 2017)
A handsome stranger moves to the small Pennsylvania town of Central Valley, and his name is Chris Brennan. He s applying for a job as a teacher and varsity baseball coach at the local high school, and he looks perfect, on paper. But his name is an alias, his resume is false, and everything about him is a lie. And he has a secret plan – for which he needs a pawn on the baseball team.

Susan Sematov loves her younger son Raz, the quirky and free-spirited pitcher of the team. But Raz s adored father died only a few months ago, and the family is grief-stricken. Secretly, Raz is looking to fill the Daddy-shaped hole in his heart.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who s dedicated to her only son Justin, the quiet rookie on the team. But Justin s shy and reserved nature renders him vulnerable to attention, including that of a new father-figure.

Mindy Kostis is the wife of a busy surgeon and the queen bee of the baseball boosters, where her super-popular son Evan is the star catcher. But she doesn t realize that Evan s sense of entitlement is becoming a full-blown case of affluenza, and after he gets his new BMW, it s impossible to know where he s going or whom he s spending time with.

The lives of these families revolve around the baseball team and Chris Brennan. What does he really want? How far will he go to get it? Who among them will survive the lethal jeopardy threatening them, from the shadows?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will keep readers riveted to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won t soon forget.

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The Thirst by Jo Nesbo (20 April 2017)
HARRY HOLE IS BACK! A BLISTERING NEW THRILLER FROM THE NUMBER 1 BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE SNOWMAN AND POLICE.

THERE’S A NEW KILLER ON THE STREETS…

A woman is found murdered after an internet date. The marks left on her body show the police that they are dealing with a particularly vicious killer.

HE’S IN YOUR HOUSE… HE’S IN YOUR ROOM

Under pressure from the media to find the murderer, the force know there’s only one man for the job. But Harry Hole is reluctant to return to the place that almost took everything from him. Until he starts to suspect a connection between this killing and his one failed case.

HE’S OUT FOR BLOOD

When another victim is found, Harry realises he will need to put everything on the line if he’s to finally catch the one who got away.

‘An expertly plotted, compelling and gripping white-knuckle ride… Nesbo deserves to be crowned the king of all crime thriller writers’ Sunday Express on THE SON

‘Nesbo deploys all the key ingredients of a cracking good thriller with expertise and verve. The ticking clock, the tension expertly ratcheted ever upwards, the changing scenery, the constantly shifting goalposts and the effortless, triumphant outpacing of the reader’s ability to guess what’s going to happen will keep you gripped to the last page’ Guardian on THE LEOPARD

‘The undisputed king of Scandinavian crime fiction’ The Times

‘Scandinavian crime thrillers don’t come much darker or more tense than the best-selling Harry Hole series, and this tenth outing for the Norwegian detective is the best yet’ Sunday Mirror on POLICE

5 New Thrillers/Mysteries to Watch Out For

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Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin (31 Jan 2017)

Detective Inspector John Rebus investigates a cold case that has turned red hot once again.
John Rebus, as incapable of settling into his retirement as he is of playing by the rules, investigates a cold case from the 1970s involving a gorgeous and wealthy female socialite who was found dead in a bedroom at one of Edinburgh’s most luxurious hotels. No one was ever found guilty, but the scandalous circumstances of the murder have kept the town talking for over forty years. Now, Rebus has his own reasons to investigate, but his inquiries quickly make him some very dangerous and powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to ensure that the case remains unsolved and the gossip falls on deaf ears.

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Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner (31 Jan 2017)
Lisa Gardner’s next thriller following her runaway New York Times bestseller Find Her takes her wildly popular brand of suspense to new heights.

Thirteen-year-old Sharlah Nash knows that the first time her brother killed eight years ago, he did it to save their lives.

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

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

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

Now, Sharlah has one chance to take control.

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

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The Mermaid’s Scream by Kate Ellis (2 Feb 2017)
Why did Wynn Staniland, a legend in the literary world, suddenly become a recluse in the 1980s? Most assumed he stopped writing because of his wife’s bizarre suicide; a death that mirrored a murder case from the nineteenth century. And now a promising young author called Zac Wilkinson is working on Staniland’s biography and hopes to reveal the true story to a waiting world – while at the same time keeping his own troubled past hidden from public view.

When Wilkinson is found brutally murdered, DI Wesley Peterson finds links to the unexplained poisoning of a middle-aged couple at a local caravan park – and Wynn Staniland appears to be the connection.

As Wesley delves further into the case he suspects a sinister puppet show might provide the solution: a grim re-enactment of the murder of Mary Field, a cause celebre from the reign of Queen Victoria that inspired Staniland’s best-known novel.

The case becomes personal for Wesley when he discovers his son is involved, and as he begins to unravel decades of secrets and deception, the shocking truth proves almost too much to bear . . .

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Zodiac by Sam Wilson (7 Feb 2017)
In San Celeste, a series of uniquely brutal murders targets victims from totally different walks of life. In a society divided according to Zodiac signs, those differences are cast at birth and binding for life.All eyes are on detective Jerome Burton and astrological profiler Lindi Childs divided in their beliefs over whether the answer is written in the stars, but united in their conviction that there is an ingenious serial killer executing a grand plan Together, they will unravel a dark tale of betrayal, lost love, broken promises and a devastating truth with the power to tear their world apart . .

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Backstabber by Kimberley Chambers (9 Feb 2017)
The No.1 Sunday Times bestseller
If you don’t face your enemies – they’ll stab you in the back.

One of them has a gun to his head. Who will pull the trigger?

When king of the underworld Vinny Butler goes into business with respected villain Eddie Mitchell, it’s a match made in East End legend. Friends and family are treated like gold, enemies like rats – it’s the life.

Then mysterious packages arrive, dead creatures and threats. Someone is out for revenge. Who the enemy is, nobody knows, anyone could be taking a pop. The gypsies who cursed Eddie, ghosts from Vinnie’s past, enemies needing revenge. Even their own flesh and blood? There are some people you should never cross, some who can’t forgive or forget.

Who is the backstabber?

Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean

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This, is quite simply, one of the best books I have read in a very long time. If I hadn’t already picked my 2016 Book of the Year, this may have won. Already, it’s a hugely strong contender for my 2017 pick for Book of the Year (and yes I know it’s the 3rd of January! It’s that good!).

The main reason, is of course, the writing; Maclean writes beautifully, wonderfully artistic descriptions that manage to be completely purposeful and grounded in character and plot, tempered with a wonderful use of pacing. She beautifully evokes the world and the characters that live in it – making her craft look absolutely effortless. Bitter Legacy is a mystery novel – a genre I rarely read, so I wasn’t sure how I’d take to this – but I was absolutely hooked from the get go.

Detective Sergeant James Henderson is, as the blurb puts it “gay, posh and eager to prove himself”, and a barrister has been murdered. Due to James’ continued rise through the ranks, he’s been put on the case, for the first time, as lead investigator.

But this book is not just about the case, although that fascinates with its twists and turns (and – without spoiling anything – a fascinatingly repulsive character in the last third of the book). Heir to a business empire, James gave it all up to do something that mattered, and also to be himself – the gay man that he is, not the straight business mogul his father expects. Since he started this new life, he’s been working all the hours he can, and living out of boxes in a tiny bedsit. He’s been looking for a new place, but given the competition in London, it’s been tough. And when the case and this collide, he ends up moving in with someone that was peripheral (and cleared) in the inquiries.

As the bodies build, so does James’ relationship with his new landlord, the charming, enigmatic photographer, Ben Morgan – who doesn’t do relationships, or love. A fiercely independent man, and staunch advocate of sexual freedom, when the very inexperienced James, who has never had a real relationship, falls for him, he falls hard.

There is a great supporting cast, richly and deftly drawn by Maclean – Steggie, the downstairs neighbour who “acts” in adult films, Ben’s extended circle of friends and ‘acquaintances’, James’ fellow police officers, and the victim’s families. The mystery and James and Ben’s relationship both progress with some great wrenches thrown in the mix; life, like their relationship, and the ever-expanding case, is not always clean and easy and Maclean entices you into this world in all of its messy glory. And her frankly enviably brilliant writing had me finish this book in a flash.

It was my first real brush with m/m or gay mystery, as opposed to  m/m romance, and I’ll definitely be going in for more. I’m not going to give anything away about the plot, or even their relationship, but when I hit the last hundred pages, I basically abandoned my plans for the evening and curled up on the sofa, knowing I wasn’t going to stop until I’d finished.

This book is a stunning achievement – made even more impressive by the fact that this is Maclean’s first novel. With this one book, she has shot up into that rare cadre of authors whose books I automatically buy.

Also, despite there being a gay protagonist, I would heartily recommend this to any crime/thriller/mystery fans, of any orientation; it’s brilliantly done, and the case, and its unraveling is not just tacked onto the relationship, but is the real driving force of the book. So yes, in summation, everyone just read it!

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

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Local Girl Missing is a tense psychological thriller. Part ghost story, part psychological drama, it caught my interest from the first page and kept me guessing to the end.

It’s a dreary afternoon, just after lunch, when I finally found out that you’re dead.

A body’s been found and Frankie is drawn back to the seaside town of Oldcliffe-On-Sea. It’s a place where seagulls squawk early in the morning and there’s a smell of fish and chips in the air. It’s a faded seaside place, a claustrophobic town where everyone knows everyone-A place where Frankie would sooner forget.

Could the body be that of Sophie, Frankie’s best friend who disappeared off the old pier after a night out 20 years ago??

The story is about possessive friendships. The action slips between the past 1997 (when Sophie went missing) and present day. Frankie narrates the present day while Sophie narrates the past.

What actually happened? Will the truth ever come out? And if it does at what cost? I won’t spoil it but I will say that this book is gripping, claustrophobic and unpredictable….. You will not be able to put it down!

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Still Life by Louise Penny

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Although this review is for Still Life, this is really a review of the whole series of Chief Inspector Gamache novels by Louise Penney but we may as well start at the beginning.

In this novel, the body of an elderly lady, Jane Neal, is found in the woods beside her home in the small village of Three Pines, south of Montreal.  Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team of investigators are called in, to the consternation of the locals who are convinced that the death of such a beloved resident could only be an accident.

And so we are introduced to a cast of characters who recur in all of the following novels.  I must admit that I was expecting a somewhat cosy mystery and that was more or less what I got.  However, something about this town and the characters who live in it stayed with me and after the second novel, A Fatal Grace, I was completely hooked.  I make no bones about the fact that I want to live in Three Pines.  I put on a stone while reading this series because the descriptions of food are amazing and I felt that eating croissants and drinking chocolat chaud was probably as near as I was ever going to get to Quebec.  The novels increase in complexity and ambition as the series continues and are as dark and compelling as any I have read.  Definitely recommended.

You can reserve a copy of Still Life from South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

The Drowned Detective by Neil Jordan

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This is on the surface a detective novel set in an un-named eastern European city, possibly Kiev or Lvov in Ukraine and features an English couple Jonathan and Sarah with their daughter, Jennifer. Jonathan, an ex-British Army soldier has set up a business specialising in finding missing persons while Sarah works as an Archaeologist. One day, an elderly couple come to the office and Jonathan and Istvan, his partner are hired to investigate the disappearance, years earlier, of the couples child, Petra. From this point the novel diverges from the usual lines of the detective story as Jonathan engages the help of a psychic and former beauty to help locate the girl. Meanwhile, Sarah is having an affair with Frank, another employee of the detective firm. One evening, while returning to the office, Jonathan saves a suicidal girl from drowning while crossing a bridge and begins a relationship with her though all is not as it seems…

The story has many twists to it with the mitteleuropa architecture of the city echoed by the gothic twist in the storyline and the tension heightens with the increasing political turmoil. I loved this book. Neil Jordan turns his hand to detective writing with the same skill as he shows in all his writing and film directing.

You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

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City of the Lost (Casey Duncan #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret: when she was in college, she killed a man. She was never caught, but he was the grandson of a mobster and she knows that someday this crime will catch up to her. Casey’s best friend, Diana, is on the run from a violent, abusive ex-husband. When Diana’s husband finds her, and Casey herself is attacked shortly after, Casey knows it’s time for the two of them to disappear again.

Diana has heard of a town made for people like her, a town that takes in people on the run who want to shed their old lives. You must apply to live in Rockton and if you’re accepted, it means walking away entirely from your old life, and living off the grid in the wilds of Canada: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, no computers, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. As a murderer, Casey isn’t a good candidate, but she has something they want: She’s a homicide detective, and Rockton has just had its first real murder. She and Diana are in. However, soon after arriving, Casey realizes that the identity of a murderer isn’t the only secret Rockton is hiding—in fact, she starts to wonder if she and Diana might be in even more danger in Rockton than they were in their old lives.
Review:

4 Lost City Stars

“You…” she says, “killed a man?” The apprehensive look. I know it well – that moment where they’re certain they’ve misheard. Or that I mean it in a metaphorical way. I broke a man’s heart. Which is technically true. A bullet does break a heart. Irrevocably, it seems.”

If you’ve read any of my reviews on Kelley Armstrong in the past, you’d know that I think very highly of both Kelley and her work. As much as I really love her paranormal titles, she does really well with her thrillers.

City of the Lost is the first installment in Kelley Armstrong’s Casey Duncan series. Leading with a phenomenally fierce protagonist, City of the Lost was the perfect thriller! I was immediately submersed in her tale of Casey, her torturous past, and the mysterious hidden town that has everyone wondering. The mystery, the suspense, and Kelley’s twists and turns were absolutely brilliant – I loved it!

Fans of Kelley Armstrong will definitely want to read City of the Lost. It’s fresh, unique, and will continue to keep you on your toes.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

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I’ve always been attracted to books that do something interesting with form, books like House of Leaves which uses weird typography or Infinite Jest that uses multiple sets of footnotes to help tell its unusual story. I really like when an author can tell a story in a new way that I haven’t heard before.

Pale Fire is a novel told in “a poem, its commentary and an index”. Some editions place the commentary first, as if it were an introduction to the poem, but my edition (pictured above) put the poem first, with the commentary following it.

Briefly, the poem Pale Fire is the last poem, a 1000 line magnum opus, by celebrated American poet and professor, John Shade. Upon his death, his fellow university professor, Charles Kinbote, procures the manuscript and sets about writing a critical commentary to the poem, elucidating its references and themes, however, from the get go, we can tell something is not right – Kinbote veers wildly off-topic, talking not about Shade’s poem but about Kinbote’s distant homeland Zembla, of which he may or may not be king. As the book progresses, we realise we are in the hands of one of literature’s most unreliable narrators – Is he the king of Zembla? Is this place even real? Is Kinbote mad? Did he kill Shade?

My friend recommended the novel and at first I was somewhat stumped upon how to read it – do you read the poem and then the commentary/footnotes?  In the end, I plumped for a back and forth (which was all hyperlinked in my Kindle edition – which was great), following the leads and reading the footnotes when I was instructed to by our demented narrator. I came away from the novel wondering if Kinbote was telling any truth at all, and if not what the reality behind the fictions were, but more disturbing, I was left wondering if any of what was presented to me was “true” – who is the real Kinbote? Was there a real Shade at all? Who is writing the book that we are reading? These are questions that nearly fifty years on, critics still debate, and will make you want to read this book all over again.

A final note, the book is nowhere near as difficult as it may sound, and the joy of it is you can read it anyway you want – coming to the story on your own terms, just as Nabokov would’ve wanted.

You can reserve this book on South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

The Cry of the Owl by Patricia Highsmith

cryoftheowlThis is perhaps less known than some of her other novels such as the Ripley novels and Carolher second book recently made into an Oscar-nominated film. It’s a psychological thriller set in the New Jersey /Pennsylvania area of the US in the fifties.

The main character Robert Forster is trying to build a new life after a bad relationship breaks down and is drawn towards a young woman after observing her and her boyfriend in her house in an isolated rural area. He becomes obsessed with her, spying on her through the houses’ un-curtained windows. She gradually develops a suspicion that there is a lurker outside and tells her partner.

Eventually he, Forster, makes his presence known but then makes up a weak excuse for being there which the girl half believes. Nevertheless they gradually form a relationship and she splits with her boyfriend. He, the boyfriend, has suspicions about the identity of the voyeur which leads to a confrontation between him and Forster.

The story continues with numerous twists involving Forster’s ex-wife, the girls’ family and later involving a suggestion of murder. As with many of her novels none of the main characters emerge without personal flaws. It’s an uncomfortable but compelling story full of obsession and jealousy like a lot of her books. A good read.

You can reserve a copy of The Cry of the Owl on South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.