CTG Reviews: DEAD GONE by Luca Veste

DEAD GONE cover image

DEAD GONE cover image

What the blurb says: “The young girl you have found isn’t the first experiment I’ve carried out. She won’t be the last.

A serial killer is stalking the streets of Liverpool, gruesomely murdering victims as part of a series of infamous, unethical and deadly psychological experiments.

When it becomes apparent that each victim has ties to the City of Liverpool University, DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi realise they’re chasing a killer unlike any they’ve hunted before – one who doesn’t just want his victims’ bodies, but wants their minds too.”

If you like your crime fiction dark, chilling and psychologically thrilling Luca Veste is a debut author you’re really going to want to read.

DI David Murphy, highly experienced but still reeling from personal loss, and his protégé, DS Laura Rossi, lead the hunt for a highly intelligent killer. But this is Murphy’s first murder case since a horrific attack caused the death of his parents. Still suffering flashbacks to the gruesome events of that day, the pressure and brutality of the killer under investigation threatens to tip him over the edge.

Masterfully told, through the eyes of the detectives, the victims, and the killer, the story keeps you guessing with plenty of twists and turns, and multiple possible suspects, without ever seeming contrived.

Dead Gone straddles the line between police procedural and psychological thriller, taking the best from both to create a tense and thought-provoking serial killer novel.

Highly Recommended.

[with thanks to Avon Books for my copy of Dead Gone]

Want to find out more about Luca Veste? Click this link to read our recent interview with him.

CTG Reviews: NEVER GO BACK by Lee Child [out in paperback today!]

NEVER GO BACK cover image

NEVER GO BACK cover image

Reacher fans will be delighted to learn that NEVER GO BACK is out in paperback today (27th March) in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and on Tuesday 1st April in the US and Canada.

Plus, as an added bonus, the paperback edition also features a quick peep at the next Reacher book – PERSONAL – that’s due for release later this year. Today you can also read it online by hoping on over to http://leechild.com/books/personal.php 

NEVER GO BACK was one of our favourite books of 2013 and here at the CTG blog we’re counting down the days until PERSONAL is released – especially now we’ve read the teaser on leechild.com

But, in the meantime, to get your Reacher fix check out NEVER GO BACK.

Here’s our review …

NEVER GO BACK – What the blurb says: “After an epic and interrupted journey all the way from the snows of South Dakota, Jack Reacher has finally made it to Virginia. His destination: a sturdy stone building a short bus ride from Washington DC, the headquarters of his old unit, the 110th MP. It was the closest thing to a home he ever had. Why? He wants to meet the new commanding officer, Major Susan Turner. He liked her voice on the phone. But the officer sitting behind Reacher’s old desk isn’t a woman. Why is Susan Turner not there? What Reacher doesn’t expect is what comes next. He himself is in big trouble, accused of a sixteen-year-old homicide. And he certainly doesn’t expect to hear these words: ‘You’re back in the army, Major. And your ass is mine.’ Will he be sorry he went back? Or – will someone else?”

Classic Reacher. Unputdownable.

When I was halfway through this book I started to slow down, I was so enjoying the story that I wanted to make it last longer. Now that, to me, is a great book. In fact, I think this might just be my new favourite of the series – and that’s a tough call to make because they are all so good.

Anyway, this book sees Reacher finally getting to Virginia. Only Major Susan Turner isn’t there and Reacher is recalled back into the army to face an old homicide charge (and another, more personal relationship-based, legal situation). But does Reacher quit? Of course not, he’s going to find out why both he and Susan Turner are being held on trumped-up charges, and ensure that justice is served.

So I’m not going to discuss the plot further than that because, quite frankly, you need to discover it as you read and I really don’t want to spoil it for you.

What I will say though is that this book is a little different to the majority of the others in the series due to the depth of connection between Reacher and Major Susan Turner. Reacher isn’t alone. Sure, you might say that in previous books he’s always teamed up with someone (often a woman) to sort out whatever situation he’s uncovered. But this is different. With Susan Turner the connection is way more than professional and way more than physical. This isn’t a knight rescuing a damsel in distress. This is a pair of knights, a partnership of equals, a meeting of minds, bodies and souls. And it makes for some gripping reading.

It also shows elements of Reacher that have been less touched upon in other books. Yes, sure, there’s still the great action sequences at the series is famous for, and Reacher is just as tough and able to win a fight (even with his hands behind his back) and he’s super smart at thinking through the complex problems that he encounters. But this time the personal stakes are higher, and so is the tension.

In this book, more than any other, Reacher has the chance to put down roots and, for the first time, it seems like he’s really considering it. Question is, after so long on the road, will he?

Highly recommended.


[I bought my copy of NEVER GO BACK from Waterstones book shop]

CTG Interviews: Rachel Abbott author of SLEEP TIGHT

Author Rachel Abbott

Author Rachel Abbott

Today I’d like to welcome Rachel Abbott, who has dropped in to the CTG blog to answer a few of our questions. So, to business …

Your new book, SLEEP TIGHT, came out last month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

SLEEP TIGHT is a psychological thriller, which poses the question “how far would you go to hold on to the people you love?” It’s a story of obsession, deception and retribution.

The story opens when Olivia Brookes calls the police because her husband took the children out for a pizza, and he hasn’t come home. Has there been an accident? But the police don’t think so.

The problem is, this isn’t the first time that Olivia has had to contact the police. Seven years earlier her boyfriend and father of her first child called to say he was on his way home. But he never arrived.

To say any more about this story would give too much away. It was incredibly difficult to write the blurb for the cover for that very reason. Just let’s say that things are not always as they seem, and some times good people are forced to do bad things.

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

I am a huge planner. I don’t always stick to the plan, but I have to really understand my characters and what is motivating them before I start. So I have detailed character outlines for each of them usually including a picture that I find on Google images. I know what their favourite drinks are, what colour lipstick they wear (when appropriate, of course), their hobbies, the biggest thing that has ever happened to them, and what their story goal is. It is so easy to write books in which the characters can’t be differentiated, and to avoid that I want to get to know my characters really well.

In addition to having a plot timeline, I also have character timelines. I need to know what year they were born, when they met their partners, when their children were born – things that happen outside of the story, but may be referenced. I can’t tell you how many times I have read a book and thought “that’s not right – the child would have only been two at the time” or something similar.

And then because my books tend to have complex plots, I flowchart the main themes. This is the bit that sometimes goes to pot when I’m writing because the story starts to have a life of its own. But I use a piece of software called Scrivener to write my first draft. With that, I can attach keywords to individual scenes, with each keyword relating to a plot point in the story. I can then search on these keywords and reveal only the scenes that are relevant. That way, I can check each element of the story to make sure there are no loose ends or inconsistencies.

What books and authors have inspired you as a reader and writer?

I think my early inspiration came from Daphne du Maurier. I would say that Rebecca is one of my favourite books of all times – and of course, just like my books, in Rebecca you could say that good people are moved to do bad things. It was the whole sense of suspicion and threat that had me hooked, but a great love story at the same time.

Writers like Val McDermid are responsible for raising my interest in thrillers, and Harlan Coben’s early stand alone books made me think about writing from the perspective of the protagonist instead of always from the point of view of the police. I am now a fan of Sharon Bolton’s books too, which can be really dark. I am a member of a book club now, though, and trying hard to read as many non-thrillers as possible.

Sleep Tight cover image

Sleep Tight cover image

What advice would you give to those aspiring to publication as crime writers?

Make sure you do your research. Even if you decide to stretch the truth, be sure you have your facts right. There was one point in SLEEP TIGHT that I thought was a pretty safe bet – part of the book is set on Alderney, which is classed as the UK (it’s a Crown Dependency) and I assumed that – should it be necessary – a British policeman could arrest a suspect on Alderney. Not true! Fortunately, I happened to mention in passing to one of the two Alderney policemen, and he put me straight. So it really is important to check every detail.

Other than that, I would advise any writer to have their book professionally edited. I always believed that editing meant proof reading, and had no idea what it REALLY meant. There is the structural editing in which you might be told to cut things down, reorganise them, change points of view – and that can be expensive. But as a minimum you need a proper copy-edit – somebody to tell you about inconsistencies as well as typos. My copy edits are more red than black when they come back – but it’s all really good stuff. My copy editor picked up things such as two different people being described as deranged, even though the descriptions were a hundred pages apart. Repetition of words is a huge thing that they can help you to improve on, and I would seriously consider this.

But other than that, make sure your book is as good as it possibly can be, with a great title and then if you can’t find an agent or a publisher, don’t be frightened to self-publish. But if you do, you need to ask yourself a question: why are you publishing your book? The three most obvious answers would be:

I just want to see it in print (or virtual print). If that’s the case, stick it up there, and admire your Amazon page from time to time, and get on with the next book

I want as many people as possible to read my book, but I’m not concerned with making money.If that’s the case, consider using Amazon’s free posting and just make sure you let as many of the free sites know as possible.

I want my book to be a commercial success. If that’s what you want, then not only do you have to be sure your book is the best it can possibly be, but also you need to learn about marketing, and you are going to have to dedicate some time to getting it noticed. And you are probably going to have to pay for a really good cover design.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

I am really looking forward to the rest of this year. I am starting on my new novel, and I am going to be attending a few events in the UK over the course of the year, including the London Book Fair, the Literary Festival and the Crime Festival at Harrogate, so I’m hoping to meet a lot of people that up to now I have only spoken to on Twitter or Facebook.

I’m also hoping to move in to a new place to live, which, if I can reach agreement with the current owners, will be a spectacular home overlooking the sea. I’m also hoping to take a trip up the Irrawaddy River in Burma – but that’s gone on the back burner a bit because of the move and the new book. But there’s certainly plenty to be excited about.

It sounds like it’s going to be a busy year!

A huge thank to you Rachel Abbott for dropping by and answering our questions.

You can find out more about SLEEP TIGHT and Rachel’s other books on her website over at http://www.rachel-abbott.com/ on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RachelAbbott1Writer and follow her on Twitter as @Rachel_Abbott



CTG Reviews: Stone Bruises by Simon Beckett

Stone Bruises cover image

Stone Bruises cover image

What the blurb says: “Sean is on the run. We don’t know why and we don’t know from whom. Under a relentless French sun, he’s abandoned his blood-stained car and taken to the parched fields and country lanes. And now he’s badly injured.

Almost unconscious from pain and loss of blood, he’s rescued and nursed by two young women on an isolated farm. Their volatile father, Arnaud, is violently protective of his privacy and makes his dislike of the young Englishman clear. Sean’s uncertain whether he’s a patient or a prisoner, but there’s something beguiling about the farm. Tranquil and remote, it’s a perfect place to hide.

Except some questions can’t be ignored. Why has Arnaud gone to such extreme lengths to cut off his family from the outside world? Why is he so hated in the neighbouring village? And why won’t anyone talk about his daughter’s estranged lover?

As Sean tries to lose himself in the heat and dust of a French summer, he comes to realise that the farm has secrets of its own. It might be a perfect hiding place, but that means nobody know he’s there … which would make it the perfect place to die.”

As a reader I like my books action packed and pulse poundingly fast, but this story isn’t like that. It’s a slow burn, teasing and taunting with clues and twists, building the anticipation of what is to come in a way that kept even an adrenalin junkie like me hooked.

At the start of the story it’s clear that Sean has something to hide, something he’s running from, but this danger is soon overtaken by a more immediate problem when he gets caught in one of many traps set in woodland surrounding a dilapidated farm. Taken in and nursed back to health by the farmer’s daughters, Sean goes from victim, to prisoner, to willing labourer. All the time, trying to safeguard his secrets, and not ask too many questions about the rumours surrounding the farm. But as time passes, and Sean bares witness to increasingly strange goings on, it becomes clear that the place that has given him refuge may be a greater threat than the danger he has been hiding from.

The way that Beckett creates a deeply claustrophobic feeling within a remote and spacious setting is superb. The intrigue and suspense build with every page, and soon both the reader and Sean have the chilling realisation that the dysfunctional family have secrets far more sinister than they’d ever imagined. This rising sense of impending doom is paid off in full at the end of the story with a brutal climax and some shocking twists.

Artfully plotted and lyrically told, this is a story that stays with you long after the final page has been finished.

Highly recommended.


[with many thanks to Bantam Press for my copy of Stone Bruises]

CTG Giveaway: Win a #FIONAGRIFFITHS Crime Series Book Bundle

To celebrate publication of THE STRANGE DEATH OF FIONA GRIFFITHS – the third book in Harry Bingham’s fabulously quirky Fiona Griffiths crime series – those lovely folks over at Orion have given us five bundles of the first three books in the series to giveaway.

For a chance to win all you need to do is tweet the link to this post (using the Twitter button below) OR retweet one of the CTG tweets about the giveaway. [You’ll also need to follow us on Twitter, so that we can send you a direct message should you win].


If you’re not on Twitter don’t worry. You can also enter by emailing crimethrillergirl[at]gmail[dot]com. Give your email the header FIONA GRIFFITHS and give your name and postal address.

(1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winners at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 9pm GMT on Sunday 23rd March 2014 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.


Here’s what the prize includes …

Talking to the Dead cover image

Talking to the Dead cover image


What the blurb says: “For rookie detective constable Fiona Griffiths, her first major investigation promises to be a tough initiation into Cardiff’s dark underbelly. A young woman and her six-year-old daughter have been found brutally murdered in a squalid flat, the single clue a platinum credit card belonging to a millionaire businessman who died in a plane crash six months before.

For her fellow cops, it’s just another case of a low-rent prostitute meeting the wrong kind of client and coming to a nasty end, but Fiona is convinced that the tragic lives and cruel deaths of this mother and daughter are part of a deeper, darker mystery. Fiona, however, has secrets of her own. She is still recovering from a crushing psychological breakdown, and the feelings which haunt her are constantly threatening to undermine the mask of normality she has learned to wear.

As she begins to piece together a bizarre and terrifying conspiracy, Fiona finds that what makes her vulnerable also gives her a unique insight into the secrets of the dead, and in solving the murders of Janet and April Mancini she can begin to start solving the riddles of her own past.”

Love Story, With Murders cover image

Love Story, With Murders cover image


What the blurb says: “DC Fiona Griffiths is called to the scene and finds, amidst the remains of an old widow’s freezer goods, a human leg. Surprisingly well preserved. And wearing a pink high-heeled shoe. The search begins for the rest of the corpse, but this treasure hunt soon turns out to be darker and stranger than anything the police have encountered before, as the victim’s body-parts start popping up all over western Cardiff: in garden sheds, roof voids and car boots.

And then, even more bizarrely, parts of a second corpse start appearing. But this time the victim is male – and completely fresh.

The two murders must be connected – but how? Why so similar and yet so different? And if there’s a message, who is meant to read it?

Investigating the double crime draws Fiona into a web of obsession, money, deceit – and acute personal danger. Which is exactly where she likes to be: in the middle of a gruesome puzzle with a pitch-black secret at its heart.”

cover image

cover image


What the blurb says: “When DC Fiona Griffiths says ‘yes’ to her policeman boyfriend, it’s an affirmation that she wants to finally put her psychological breakdown behind her, and become a resident of ‘Planet Normal’ like everybody else.

But she still can’t resist the challenge of an undercover policing course and, finding it remarkably easy to assume a new identity, she comes top of the class. So when an ingenious payroll fraud starts to look like the tip of a huge criminal iceberg, Fiona is selected to infiltrate the fraudsters’ operation.

Posing as a cleaner, Fiona Griffiths becomes Fiona Grey, hoping the criminals will try and recruit her – knowing that if they discover her real identity, she’s dead meat. But as Fiona penetrates deeper into their operation, coming closer to identifying the mastermind behind it, she faces another, even more frightening danger – that her always fragile grip on her sense of self has now been lost and she may never find her way back.”

To read our review of the latest book THE STRANGE DEATH OF FIONA GRIFFITHS click here

And to find out more about Harry Bingham and his books, pop on over to his website here www.harrybingham.com

You can also check out the Orion Books website here https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409153108

CTG Reviews: The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “When DC Fiona Griffiths says ‘yes’ to her policeman boyfriend, it’s an affirmation that she wants to finally put her psychological breakdown behind her, and become a resident of ‘Planet Normal’ like everybody else. But she still can’t resist the challenge of an undercover policing course and, finding it remarkably easy to assume a new identity, she comes top of the class. So when an ingenious payroll fraud starts to look like the tip of a huge criminal iceberg, Fiona is selected to infiltrate the fraudsters’ operation. Posing as a cleaner, Fiona Griffiths becomes Fiona Grey, hoping the criminals will try and recruit her – knowing that if they discover her real identity, she’s dead meat. But as Fiona penetrates deeper into their operation, coming closer to identifying the mastermind behind it, she faces another, even more frightening danger – that her always fragile grip on her sense of self has now been lost and she may never find her way back.”

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths is published this week. It’s the third novel in the series featuring Harry Bingham’s quirky, unpredictable protagonist Fiona Griffiths.

This novel picks up where the second book – Love Story with Murders – ended, and sees Cardiff based DC Fiona Griffiths train as an undercover detective. She passes with flying colours, and is soon offered an assignment that requires her to assume the identity of Fiona Grey. She assimilates into the role easily, becoming first a cleaner and then a payroll clerk in order to infiltrate the criminal gang. She’s the perfect undercover officer – where her unpredictable nature and lack of regard for orders is usually a problem, while undercover her quick thinking and improvisation are the things that keep her alive.

But as she gets deeper undercover, the boundaries between her true self and her undercover ‘legend’ begin to blur. She finds herself taking bigger and bigger risks, both with the operation and with her personal relationships as she gets closer to her criminal colleagues. As the criminal ring get closer to pulling off the largest payroll fraud in history, only Fiona has the access and the knowledge to bring them down. Question is, will she?

This is a police procedural with a twist. Quirky, gripping and, rather like its lead character, utterly unconventional. That’s what makes it such a delight to read.

Highly recommended.

[many thanks to Orion Books for my copy of The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths]

CTG Reviews: Down Among the Dead Men by Ed Chatterton

Down Among the Dead Men cover image

Down Among the Dead Men cover image

What the blurb says: “At first glance, to newly-promoted DCI Frank Keane, the horrifically bloody crime scene in suburban Liverpool looks like a straightforward murder-suicide – the husband kills the wife and then himself. Frank and the rest of the Major Incident Team have seen too many cases like it before. But what of their missing teenage son, Nicky? Is he their prime suspect or the third victim?

For script-writer Dean Quinn, the killings are a potential disaster. The film he is working on is everything to him and with new London money and a rising American actor lighting up the set, his vision is almost complete. He’ll do anything to protect it.

Frank knows that time is running out to find the boy. But all too soon the case starts unravelling into one that will test Keane to the limit – and haunt him to his dying day.”

This is the second book in Ed Chatterton’s DCI Frank Keane crime series.

As with the first book, Down Among the Dead Men continues the dark, gritty tone. As unsettlingly atmospheric as the claustrophobic-inducing old tunnel system they’re using as a location for Dean Quinn’s film, this story gives more than a few heart-pounding moments.

First part of the book is set in Liverpool and has all the elements you’d expect from a police procedural. I think this was my favourite part of the book as there’s a high element of mystery, and as the actions and behaviours of each character associated with the murdered couple are revealed, the relationships between them are shown to be far from simple. I loved the complexity, the intrigue, and trying to guess who was responsible for the sinister activities surrounding the ill-fated movie.

The second part of the book ups the pace and becomes more thriller-like as the action shifts to follow Keane’s pursuit of the killer in LA. Fast-paced and dynamic, the chase pulls you along at a relentless speed.

If you’re a fan of gritty, atmospheric crime thrillers, this could be a series well worth checking out.

Ed Chatterton stopped by the CTG blog a few weeks ago. You can read the interview here.


[With thanks to Arrow for my copy of Down Among the Dead Men]