RT for chance to #WIN a #DeepDownDead Special Edition Limited Proof #crimefiction #books

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It’s Monday morning, so time for a competition I think!

To celebrate the publication of my debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD as an eBook I’m giving away a special limited edition bound proof of the book (which comes out in paperback on 5th January 2017) and a few book-related goodies – handcuffs, a map of the USA, and some rather tasty chocolates – pictured above.

About the book:

DEEP DOWN DEAD is an action thriller and the first of a series featuring bounty hunter and single mom, Lori Anderson.

Here’s the blurb: “Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.

Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal …”

DEEP DOWN DEAD is available as an eBook now from Amazon here

And, if you’d like a sneak peep at the book, you can read the prologue here

How to enter: **THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER NOTIFIED**

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

Rules
(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 Tuesday 18th October 2016 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Good luck!

Whoop! #DeepDownDead released as eBook today!

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Today is a little different.

Today my debut novel – DEEP DOWN DEAD – is published in eBook! So I hope you’ll indulge me a little, and allow me to tell you about my book …

Deep Down Dead is an action thriller, and the first in a series featuring bounty hunter Lori Anderson.

Here’s the blurb: “Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.”

To give you a little taste of the story I’m giving you an exclusive sneak peep at the prologue. I hope you enjoy it …

 

DEEP DOWN DEAD

Prologue

Today

I open my eyes and the first thing I see are the cuffs. Flexing my wrists, I test their weight and try to ignore the dull ache in my right hand where the gash across my skin has dried crusty brown. The bruising on my forearms has turned a deep purple. From the way my ribs feel, I figure they must look the same. I keep my breathing shallow; seems it hurts a little less that way. I look up.

He’s sitting opposite me, arms folded, legs stretched out beneath the table. Waiting. In this windowless box it’s impossible to tell how much time has passed. Still, I can’t look at him, not yet, so I focus just below his eyes, where the dark shadows lie. My heart’s racing, a voice in my head screams, run, just run. I want to, I surely do, but I can’t. For all that’s gone down, someone has to pay. It’s time for me to pony up.

‘You lookin’ at me now? Good. So answer the question.’

Same Kentucky accent, but he’s not at all how I’d imagined. Guess that’s the way it goes when your only contact has been by cell. I force myself to meet his gaze, swallow down the nausea, try not to let fear distort my voice. ‘Can’t believe all you hear.’

‘Tell me why.’

Now the moment’s come, I don’t know if I can. Was he in on it? Should I trust him? Sure, he looks the part. He’s wearing the uniform black suit, smart and efficient, shades hooked inside the breast pocket. He’s a little older than I’d imagined, nearer fifty than forty, and wears his hair on the long side, slicked back to keep it tamed. He runs his hand through it, smoothing the strands into place. I wonder if he’s nervous. I sure as hell am.

His cold stare says he figures that I’ll talk eventually. All he need do is wait, because time’s almost up for me. Every second I baulk, the people I love get dragged further from me. So we both know I have to give it up on his promise, tell him enough to end this, to stop all the talk of death row. But there’s an order to these things, and we both know that too.

He puts a plastic beaker on the desk, pushes it from his side to mine. Inside there’s a red liquid, two shades paler than blood. ‘Drink. Medical said you’re dehydrated.’

They’re right. My mouth’s drier than gator hide in August. Can’t remember the last time I drank or ate properly. Shit like that hasn’t figured much these past few days. The drink looks real tempting, but I need something from him first. This situation, it’s all about power. If I do something for him, the balance swings over to his side, but if he does something for me, I get it a little more on mine.

I glance down at the cuffs. Look back at him. Wait.

He takes the hint. Leans across the table with the keys in his left hand, ready. As he moves, I catch the scent of his cologne – lemon, clean and sharp. Hope he’s that way too. I have to trust him; we’re all out of time to do anything else.

I push my hands over the wooden veneer towards him, palms up. The torn muscle in my shoulder feels like it’s on fire. I don’t let it show; bite back the pain. He uncuffs me, slips the bracelets and key into his jacket pocket. Eases back in his chair. Watching, again.

That’s first base, right there.

So I drink. Show willing. Know I need the fluids, can’t risk the dehydration muddling my mind, confusing the story. Have to tell it right. The liquid’s raspberry-flavoured water. It’s sweet, too sweet, and stings the corner of my mouth where I’ve taken one too many punches. I grimace at the taste. ‘So how does this work?’

He stares right back at me. ‘Tell me everything.’

I jerk back, spooked. Try not to wince at the spur-sharp pain in my side. He’s moving way too fast. You can’t jump from first base to fourth, it ain’t polite and I can’t allow it.

The pain doesn’t fade. Nausea rises real fast and bile hits the back of my throat. I cough. Makes my bruised ribs hurt like a bitch. I bite my lip and press my arm against my side. Show no weakness. ‘I have to get out of here, take my daughter home.’

He shakes his head. Leans forward, elbows on the table, face level with mine. ‘Not going to happen. This situation? It’s real serious. You’re in no kind of position to be making demands.’

He’s testing me. Wants to know how desperate I am. The answer? Real desperate, but I know way better than to let that show. This game here is all about timing. What I say, and whether he believes me, that’ll be the difference between life and death. ‘So what then?’

He stares at me, unblinking. Leans closer. ‘Tell me the real story. Multiple homicide an’ the rest that’s gone down? There’s no one else can help you. I’m the guy you’ve got to convince. Right now, and right here.’

The room seems to shrink. The space feels airless, more claustrophobic. What he’s just said, I hate it. I want to howl at the unfairness of it all, punch him until he feels the pain too. But I don’t, because I know that he’s right. I’ve got no other choice but to trust him. So I put down the beaker. Watch the liquid ripple once, twice, before lying still. Count in my head, all the way up to ten, then look up and meet his gaze. I can’t delay any longer, need to move us on to second, defuse the situation. ‘Honey, I can give you answers, just as soon as I know we’ve got a deal.’

He sits back in his chair, and crosses his legs, real relaxed. Keeps eye contact. ‘Depends.’

There’s a certainty about him, a determination that’s somehow quite attractive. He plays hard to get real well; oftentimes I like that. Not today, though. Not now. Hard to get is hard to read, and one wrong move, one wrong word, will only end one way: everyone I love gone. ‘I’m listening.’

‘You tell me what happened. No bullshit, just the absolute truth from start to finish. Do that, then I’ll tell you if we’ve got a deal.’

No guarantee, but I figure it’s my best shot. So I nod, and let him take third. Act like it’s my idea, though. Force a smile as I swallow down the fear. ‘You best get comfortable, sweetie. This’ll take a little while.’

He nods, and I know that it’s time. Now I have to get us to fourth, tell the story right, secure a deal.

There’s a click as he switches on the audio recorder. He leans forward and places it on the table, dead centre. Looks me right in the eyes. ‘You’re up.’

And so I tell him.

 

DEEP DOWN DEAD is published by Orenda Books and is out today as an eBook and on 5th January 2017 as a paperback.

To buy the book from Amazon.co.uk click HERE

And be sure to drop by the CTG blog tomorrow for a chance to win a limited edition paperback proof.

CTG Reviews: THE TIME TO KILL by Mason Cross

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What the blurb says: “It’s been five years since Carter Blake parted ways with Winterlong, a top-secret government operation with a shady past. At the time, they agreed a deal; he’d keep quiet about what they were doing, and in return they’d leave him alone.

But now something has changed, and Winterlong is coming from him.

Blake may be the best there is at tracking down people who don’t want to be found, but Winterlong taught him everything he knows. If there’s anyone who can find him – and kill him – it’s them.

THE TIME TO KILL is the third book in the Carter Blake series, and it’s one hell of a read!

The story starts with Blake accepting a new job – finding an employee of an internet tech company who’s gone AWOL with a piece of ground-breaking software. But as he starts tracking his target, Blake isn’t aware that he himself is firmly in the sights of his old employers – Winterlong – and that they’ll stop at nothing to neutralise the threat they now believe him to be.

Before long, Blake’s simple ‘find and return’ job becomes a whole lot more complicated, and he finds himself on the run. As the body-count starts to rise, Blake realises the only way to end things is to get to what Winterlong want back from him before they do. Question is, can he make it across the country to where he stashed it before them?

This is a game of cat and mouse, played between a group of deadly, armed cats and one seriously kick-ass mouse! As Blake races against time across the country, a severe snowstorm descends, and the situation becomes even more dire.

THE TIME TO KILL is an adrenaline rush from the first page to the last. Blake is a terrific action hero – he’s smart, agile, and although prefers not to kill people (even the bad guys) he’ll fight as hard as it takes to make sure the good guys win.

Packed with stunning set-piece action sequences, and an emotional punch as you discover more of the rather mysterious Blake’s backstory, this cinematic action thriller is like reading Reacher crossed with Bourne plus added fabulousness.

It’s a total must read. In fact, stop what you’re doing right now and start reading it – you won’t regret it!

You can buy THE TIME TO KILL here from Waterstones, or from Amazon here 

And be sure to check out www.MasonCross.net and follow him on Twitter @MasonCrossBooks

[note, THE TIME TO KILL had a title change after the first proofs went out, so if you see chatter about a book called WINTERLONG, they are the same!]

CTG Reviews: THE PLEA by Steve Cavanagh

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Here’s what the blurb says: “When David Child, a major client of a corrupt New York law firm, is arrested for murder, the FBI ask con-artist-turned-lawyer Eddie Flynn to secure Child as his client and force him to testify against the firm. Eddie’s not a man to be coerced into representing a guilty client, but the FBI have incriminating files on Eddie’s wife, and if Eddie won’t play ball, she’ll pay the price. When Eddie meets Child he’s convinced the man is innocent, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. With the FBI putting pressure on him to secure the plea, Eddie must find a way to prove Child’s innocence while keeping his wife out of danger – not just from the FBI, but from the firm itself.”

Steve Cavanagh’s debut novel – THE DEFENCE – was one of my top reads of 2015 so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the second book in the Eddie Flynn series – THE PLEA – and was delighted to get my hands on an early copy.

Picking up a little while after the end of THE DEFENCE, THE PLEA sees con-man-turned-criminal-defence-lawyer Eddie Flynn facing another terrifying situation: persuade social media genius David Child to become his client and get him to plead guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, or the FBI will make sure Eddie’s wife goes to prison for involvement in an illegal scheme operated by her law firm that she had no direct knowledge of. But Eddie suspects that David Child is innocent, and he won’t send an innocent man to jail. He doesn’t want his wife in jail either, especially given the ordeal their young daughter, Amy, had during the THE DEFENCE, and the fact that he’s only just beginning to get his family back together. Eddie sets out to prove David Child’s innocence, and to protect his own family. Problem is, there is more than one bunch of bad guys after David Child, and some are closer to home than even Eddie might think.

To me, Eddie Flynn is a bit like the Jack Bauer (of 24 fame) of the the legal world. He’s smart, fast and always under pressure. In fact that’s another thing I admire about Steve Cavanagh’s writing – he gets an urgent, time pressured feel to his novels right from the get-go, and still manages to turn up the tension chapter-by-chapter. The ticking clock is heard on every page.

THE PLEA is a great second outing for Eddie Flynn. We learn a bit more about him, and we get to meet some of his shadier friends (both from the criminal and legal worlds) again – including one of my favourites, The Lizard (who only talks about himself in the third person). There’s a strong investigative side to this novel too – with Eddie needing to reassess the prosecution’s evidence in order to try and get the case thrown out – which gives a great balance with the action sequences. Set against the dramatic backdrop of New York City, with a high-concept storyline and twisty-turny plot, this is a fantastic follow-up to THE DEFENCE.

Electric courtroom scenes, stunning set-piece action sequences and the brilliantly witty and unique character of Eddie Flynn, makes THE PLEA a tremendous read and an absolute must for all thriller fans.

THE PLEA is out today in Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio. Buy it here from Waterstones or from Amazon here

To find out more about crime writer Steve Cavanagh hop over to his website at www.stevecavanagh.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @SSCav

CTG Reviews: The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die by Marnie Riches

The Girl Who Wouldn't Die cover image

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die cover image

What the blurb says: “HE’S WATCHING HER. SHE DOESN’T KNOW IT…YET
When a bomb explodes at the University of Amsterdam, aspiring criminologist Georgina McKenzie is asked by the police to help flush out the killer. But the bomb is part of a much bigger, more sinister plot that will have the entire city quaking in fear. And the killer has a very special part for George to play…”

This fast paced thriller is Marnie Riches debut novel and the first book in the Georgina McKenzie series.

Opening with a bombing on campus at the University of Amsterdam, the stakes are high from the off and continue to escalate as criminology student, Georgina ‘George’ McKenzie gets drafted in to help the police, and specifically Detective van den Bergen, gather intelligence from within the student and wider communities. But when a second bomb goes off, and a series of other murders follow that centre around the University, it seems that George may have a closer connection to the killer than anyone suspected.

Experienced cop – Detective van den Bergen – is a great pairing for George. Whereas she is headstrong and prone to charge into a situation, he is analytical and considered (and a bit of a hypochondriac) – but both are determined and single-minded about the need to get to the truth behind the killings and bring those responsible to justice, and they’re not afraid to go against direct orders to achieve their goal.

Bold and fearless, George is quick to piece together the evidence, and gets frustrated by the slowness of the police. As the stakes escalate, and the danger draws closer, she takes increasingly bigger risks – putting herself (and her friends) in danger. One of those friends is Ad – who George enlists to help her check out the evidence and run her own investigation. Between them they’re often a few steps ahead of the Police and end up feeding information to van den Bergen.

The story hurtles along at a breakneck pace as George and Ad track their suspects across Holland and Germany, and it seems sure that they’ll soon have the killer. But George is hiding a secret past, and as the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her, she realizes she’s going to need all her street smarts to foil the killer and keep her friends, and herself, alive.

A nail-biting, seat-of-your-pants read – The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is a great read for those who love action thrillers and fabulous introduction to a great new series.

I’ll be sure to watch out for the next book – The Girl Who Broke the Rules – which is coming out in August.

 

You can find out more about Marnie Riches and her books by hopping over to www.marnieriches.com 

And be sure to follow her on Twitter @Marnie_Riches

CTG Reviews: The Killing Season by Mason Cross

 

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season was one of my top reads of 2014. It’s now out in paperback, and to celebrate I thought I’d re-run my review …

What the blurb says: “When Caleb Wardell, the infamous ‘Chicago Sniper’, escapes from death row two weeks before his execution, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man with certain specialised talents whose skills lie in finding those who don’t want to be found. A man to whom Wardell is no stranger.

Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her increasingly high-flying career, Blake must track Wardell down as he cuts a swathe across America, apparently killing at random.

But Blake and Banner soon find themselves sidelined from the case. And as they try desperately to second guess a man who kills purely for the thrill of it, they uncover a hornets’ nest of lies and corruption. Now Blake must break the rules and go head to head with the FBI if he is to stop Wardell and expose a deadly conspiracy that will rock the country.”

The Killing Season has everything I love about action thrillers – the intrigue, the danger, the chase and the multi-layered characters. And, it’s Mason Cross’ debut novel, which makes it all the more impressive.

The main character, Carter Blake, is something of an enigma – charismatic, highly skilled, and at the top of his game. But he doesn’t let power and politics get in the way of his investigation, and he makes sure justice is brought, whatever the personal cost. So pairing up with Elaine Banner makes for an interesting working relationship – she’s career-driven and has her eyes on the next promotion, working with a talented maverick like Blake gives her a set of problems she can well do without.

The antagonist – sniper Caleb Wardell – is a smart and cunning adversary, engaging Blake and Banner in a deadly game of cat and mouse. The tension is high from the get-go and just keeps on rising.

So as Banner and Blake pursue Wardell, following the evidence, trying to find a pattern and anticipate his next move, the body count continues to rise. Blake’s the only person who is able to get close, and Banner starts to realise that sometimes the only way to get the job done right is to step away from procedure and follow your instinct.

As Blake and Banner get closer to the truth, they become targets – in the sights of Wardell and someone in the Agency itself – question is, can they get to them both in time, and get out alive?

I cannot sing this novel’s praises highly enough – it’s a joy to read, utterly engaging and kept me hooked right from the first page to the last. There’s high stakes and high tension, and the chemistry between Blake and Banner sizzles off the page.

If you love action thrillers, if you love crime fiction, go and read this book. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Highly Recommended.

[with thanks to Orion for my copy of The Killing Season]

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CTG Reviews: BETTER OFF DEAD by Tom Wood

Better Off Dead cover image

Better Off Dead cover image

What the blurb says: “A hitman must be anonymous, amoral … and alone.

Victor is the face in the crowd you don’t see, a perfect assassin with nothing to live for. But when an old friend turns to him for help he finds he can’t refuse. For once his objective isn’t to kill, but to protect.

Hunted through the streets of London by ruthless enemies, Victor needs to be more than just a bodyguard … but his every move leads danger closer to the very person he’s vowed to defend.”

This is the first Victor the Assassin book I’ve read, and it certainly won’t be the last! Hooking me in from the every first page, author Tom Wood has crafted a novel with terrific pace, a contemporary, gritty feel and, rather unexpected for a novel whose protagonist is an assassin, a real depth of heart.

In this story, Victor is called by an old contact, now enemy – Russian crime boss Norimov – and asked to protect his estranged daughter who is being targeted by an unidentified gang. At first Victor refuses, he owes Norimov nothing, but finally agrees to find and protect Gisele in honour of her dead mother – Eleanor – who was Victor’s friend.

In London, Victor realises that finding Gisele may be more problematic than he’d first anticipated. As he researches her last known movements, he encounters a number of challenges from local muscle, and tries to piece together who the threats are coming from. When he locates Gisele things aren’t any clearer. She has no idea who is after her, and is highly reluctant to go with Victor. He manages to persuade her, and that’s when the serious attacks begin.

Forced to rely on his instincts and training, Victor battles to keep Gisele safe as they try to unravel the real motive driving those that are targeting her. With some fabulous action sequences, and ever increasing tension, this is a breath-taking read from start to finish.

The bond that grows between Gisele and Victor makes them an engaging pair, and although Gisele has no special training aside from a few self-defence classes, she’s a fast learner and a brave co-protagonist. She’s also adept at challenging Victor, acting rather like a moral compass in the more violent moments.

This pacey, exciting seat-of-your-pants read, as a must read for all thriller fans.

Highly Recommended.

 

[with thanks to Sphere for my copy of BETTER OFF DEAD]

CTG’s Top Reads of 2014

There have been so many wonderful books published this year it’s been really hard to narrow it down to my most favourite. So, instead of my top five picks, this year I’ve made it my top nine (!).

Here they are, my top picks of 2014 …

Truth or Dare cover image

Truth or Dare cover image

TRUTH OR DARE by Tania Carver (Sphere)

Tania Carver is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Every book is fresh and inventive, and as readers of the series will have come to expect, unflinchingly dark, creepy, and nail-bitingly tense.

TRUTH OR DARE starts with a Darren Richards being forced to make a horrific choice – his life, or that of his family. Right from the outset, the ‘Lawgiver’ shows just how serious he is about his mission to serve justice where he believes the criminal justice system has failed. Enter Detective Inspector Phil Brennan and his team – investigating what looks set to become a serial killer case in Phil’s new home of Birmingham.

What I especially admired in this book is the skillful way the author touches on issues of morality, social justice and economic deprivation in relation to attitudes and motivations towards crime, without ever becoming preachy. The characters feel real and fully drawn; the settings gritty, grimy and highly atmospheric.

Tightly plotted, with a rapid pace and twists that will blindside you, this is a super-moreish read.

The Good Girl cover image

The Good Girl cover image

THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica (Harlequin MIRA)

This spellbinding debut thriller uncovers just how many dark secrets can be hidden behind a perfect family image. Schoolteacher, Mia Dennett, turned her back on her family’s extravagant lifestyle to work as an inner-city teacher and make her own way in the world. But when her boyfriend stands her up one time too many, a spare-of-the-moment decision to go home with the smooth and attractive Colin has horrifying consequences for more than just Mia.

Told through three main viewpoints – the mother, Eve, the kidnapper, Colin, and the cop, Gabe – each character shows the reader a different perspective on the events, and on Mia, leading up to, during and following the kidnapping.

With the viewpoints and timeline told out-of-sequence, the story builds the tension to the max as the details of what happened to Mia are uncovered. It’s a complex tale of deceit, jealously, fear, and love played out against the bustling, bright lights of Chicago and the frozen, unforgiving landscape of rural Minnesota in winter.

I found this artfully crafted story brutal at times, and yet so beautiful that it made me cry (and I can’t remember the last time a story did that). A stunning debut.

The Bones Beneath cover image

The Bones Beneath cover image

THE BONES BENEATH by Mark Billingham (Sphere)

THE BONES BENEATH takes Tom Thorne away from his home turf, reluctantly chaperoning one of the most dangerous criminals from his past on a trip to Bardsey Island to retrieve the body of a teenager. Part road-trip, part closed location mystery, the suspense builds from the outset.

Stuart Nicklin is a master manipulator without a shred of remorse for his victims and their families, yet he says he’s willing to lead the police to the body of one of his early kills in order for the boy’s mother to get closure. The catch –Thorne must be the police officer to escort him. But Thorne knows the trip isn’t about any sense of conscience Nicklin has, so why does he want to take a trip to the island now?

As Thorne and his team, along with prisoners Nicklin and Batchelor, make the journey there’s a real sense of impending doom.

The remote island makes the group geographically isolated. At the mercy of the weather, and limited by the small amount of equipment they could bring, the team start their search for the body. But finding it is only their first challenge.

The relationship between Thorne and Nicklin is grating and tense. Nicklin tries his upmost to taunt and provoke Thorne, while Thorne battles to keep his reactions in check. They’re well matched adversaries – smart, savvy and both determined to stop the other getting the upper hand. But as the full extent of Nicklin’s plan is put into play, the body count rises, and Thorne is forced to make an impossible choice.

This tense, suspenseful and claustrophobically gripping story hooked me in from the beginning and kept me reading into the early hours because I just couldn’t put the book down. A truly fabulous read.

The Distance cover image

The Distance cover image

THE DISTANCE by Helen Giltrow (Orion)

This is a stylish, espionage-type thriller with a bold and courageous female lead character. Karla (and her alter-ego Charlotte Alton) is super-smart, brave and principled (in her own very distinct way). But this job is different. To get a hit-man into ‘The Programme’ – an experimental prison that is meant to be impossible to break in or out of, and the hit-man is Johanssen – a guy she has a history with.

Karla takes the job, but as Johanssen assumes a new identity in order to enter The Programme, Karla gets increasingly suspicious of the client and their motives. The target of the hit is a woman, and the only information they have on her is a photo and an assurance that she did ‘something bad. Yet she seemingly has no identity, no history, and there is no record of her being inside the prison. Still, Karla has seen the CCTV footage – she knows that the target is inside and very much exists.

Concerned for Johanssen’s safety, Karla digs deeper to find the identity of the target and, in doing so, unravels the complex web of lies, bribes and murder. As she gets closer to uncovering the violent truth hidden behind the hit, Karla, and those close to her, become targets.

Set in the near future and played out over twenty-four days, the story is packed with tension. It’s told in the present tense, which adds to the momentum, and hammers along at a tremendous pace. The plot twists and turns, then twists some more and turns again. Dark, edgy and, at times, brutal, this is a stylish and highly original debut.

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

THE KILLING SEASON by Mason Cross (Orion)

THE KILLING SEASON has everything I love about action thrillers – the intrigue, the danger, the chase and the multi-layered characters. And, it’s Mason Cross’ debut novel, which makes it all the more impressive.

The main character, Carter Blake, is something of an enigma – charismatic, highly skilled, and at the top of his game. But he doesn’t let power and politics get in the way of his investigation, and he makes sure justice is brought, whatever the personal cost. So pairing up with Special Agent Elaine Banner makes for an interesting working relationship – she’s career-driven and has her eyes on the next promotion, working with a talented maverick like Blake gives her a set of problems she can well do without.

The serial killer antagonist – sniper Caleb Wardell – is a smart and cunning adversary, engaging Blake and Banner in a deadly game of cat and mouse. The tension is high from the get-go and just keeps on rising.

I cannot sing this novel’s praises highly enough – it’s a joy to read, utterly engaging and kept me hooked right from the first page to the last. There’s high stakes and high tension, and the chemistry between Blake and Banner sizzles off the page. If you love action thrillers, go and read this book. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

The Long Way Home cover image

The Long Way Home cover image

LONG WAY HOME by Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker)

Another fabulous debut of 2014 is LONG WAY HOME. DS Mel Ferreira and DI Dushan Zigic from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit are called in to investigate the murder of an unidentified man, burnt alive in a garden shed. As they start their investigation the man is identified as an immigrant, but no one will talk about the murder. There are plenty of suspects though; from the owners of the shed who seem to be hiding something, to a convicted arsonist, and the local men who use (and abuse) cheap labour – the victim seems to have made plenty of enemies. Question is, who killed him and why?

A compelling and moving story, from the brutal murder, to the horrendous conditions immigrant workers are found to be living in, their callous treatment and the cheapness of human life to the trafficking gangs and local racketeers. DI Zigic and DS Ferreira battle to bring the guilty to justice against the backdrop of a city where the undercurrent of radical tension is high and the threat of violence never far away.

Beautifully crafted, artfully plotted and deeply thought provoking, this stunning debut is the beginning of a fantastic new crime series.

Better Off Dead cover image

Better Off Dead cover image

BETTER OFF DEAD by Tom Wood (Sphere)

BETTER OFF DEAD has terrific pace, a contemporary, gritty feel and, rather unexpected for a novel whose protagonist is an assassin, a real depth of heart.

In this story, Victor (the Assassin) is called by an old contact, now enemy – Russian crime boss Norimov – and asked to protect his estranged daughter who is being targeted by an unidentified gang. At first Victor refuses, but finally agrees to find and protect Gisele in honour of her dead mother, who was his friend.

In London, Victor realises that finding Gisele may be more problematic than he’d first anticipated. When he locates Gisele things aren’t any clearer. She has no idea who is after her, and is highly reluctant to go with him. He manages to persuade her, and that’s when the serious attacks begin.

Forced to rely on his instincts and training, Victor battles to keep Gisele safe as they try to unravel the real motive driving those that are targeting her. The bond that grows between Gisele and Victor makes them an engaging pair. Gisele’s a fast learner and a brave co-protagonist. She’s also rather adept at challenging Victor, acting rather like a moral compass in the more violent moments.

With some fabulous action scenes, and ever increasing stakes, this is a breath-taking read from start to finish. A must read for fans of action thrillers.

Dear Daughter cover image

Dear Daughter cover image

DEAR DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Little (Harvill Secker)

Told from the point of view of Jane “Janie” Jenkins DEAR DAUGHTER tracks the IT girl turned criminal as she searches to find the truth about her mother’s murder – did she do it? If she didn’t, who did and why?

It’s an action-packed, cross-country race of a read as Janie follows the few clues she has to the secrets in her mother’s past – the family Janie’s never met, the childhood her mother never spoke about – hunting out anyone who can help her find out what links her glamorous, wealthy mother to a small town out in the middle of nowhere.

But it’s not easy with the media, and an especially determined blogger, out to find her. So Janie goes undercover, transforming her super bitchy, razor sharp-witted, and hair to die for self into a more wallflower-esq alter ego. And it works, for a while. But as she digs deeper, and starts to uncover the secrets hidden for so long by her mother, and those of other members of the close-knit community, her true identity – and the danger that brings – is discovered.

Janie is a real love-to-hate protagonist – smart and resourceful, and I loved riding along with her on the hunt for the truth. Mystery, suspense, a non-stop pace and a wonderfully quirky, strong female narrator – this book has them all. I read it in a single weekend.

The Dying Place cover image

The Dying Place cover image

THE DYING PLACE by Luca Veste (Avon)

When the body of a murdered teenager is found outside a church, Murphy and Rossi are called in to investigate. As they delve deeper into the case it becomes clear that someone, or some people, are taking teenagers off the street and holding them against their will, trying to ‘re-train’ them through a brutal form of national service.

Veste’s Liverpool is an unsettling, dangerous place where frustrations between the older generation and the young run high. Told through multiple points of view, the story highlights the impact of violent crime on victims’ families – on the parents whose children don’t ever return home and on the adult children whose elderly parents fall victim to teenage gangs. It also shows how grief can twist into vengeance and how that can be a powerful motivator, exploring the theme of vigilante justice in an up-close and disturbingly convincing way through the eyes of the characters.

As in Dead Gone, Murphy and Rossi are a brilliantly paired double act; the strong bond between them showing through their ever-present banter, and their unswerving loyalty in the face of adversity.

A fast-paced police procedural that keeps you guessing right to the end, THE DYING PLACE is a truly gripping read.

 

So that was 2014. I can’t wait to find out what wonderful books 2015 has in store …

CTG Reviews: The Inside Man by Jeff Abbott

The Inside Man cover image

The Inside Man cover image

What the blurb says: “Sam Capra’s friend Steve has been murdered, shot dead in the rain outside of his Miami bar. The only lead: a mysterious, beautiful stranger Steve tried to protect. To avenge his friend, Sam goes undercover into the Varelas, one of Miami’s most prominent and dangerous families.

Now on the inside, playing a part where one wrong move means death, Sam faces a powerful, unstable tycoon intent on dividing his business empire between his three very different children, who each may hold murderous secrets of their own.

Sam is relentlessly drawn into this family’s intense drama, amplifying painful echoes of his own shattered relationships as a son, brother, father, and husband. And just when he thinks he understands why the family is self-destructing, he discovers a lethal secret so shocking that the Varelas cannot let him walk away alive . . .”

As you know, I love a good action thriller and The Inside Man, book three in the Sam Capra series, doesn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of seat-of-your-pants action in this high energy, high stakes thriller.

When Sam Capra’s old friend Steve Robles is shot and killed outside a bar in Miami as he tries to protect his client – Cordelia Verela – Sam can’t just stand by and let justice go unserved. Risking his own safety and the wrath of his employers, Sam sets out to find out who murdered his friend, and in doing so becomes embroiled in the lives of the hugely wealthy and extremely dangerous Varela family.

But what at first appears to be an old-fashioned family feud soon is revealed to be a whole lot more. Determined to avenge his friend, and get Cordelia to safety, Sam follows the evidence and digs deeper into the smuggling myths about the family’s criminal connections.

As the body count rises, and Sam becomes a target, he discovers a much darker secret hidden inside the core of the family’s history. Question is, will he live long enough to tell the tale?

The story hurtles along with the gas pedal pressed firmly to the floor, following Sam as he seeks out the truth and vows to bring the killer of his friend to justice. There are plenty of twists and turns, and a cast of highly suspious and potentially criminal characters, that combine to keep you guessing over the identity of who it was behind Steve’s murder.

With plenty of slick action sequences, chases, and fight scenes – and a smuggling technique that’s highly unusual and, for a moment, made me think the story was taking a sci-fi turn – this pacey, race-against-time thriller makes for a great summer read.

Highly recommended.

 

[I bought my own copy of The Inside Man]

CTG Interviews: Mason Cross author of The Killing Season

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

After his Saturday morning panel at CrimeFest, I met up with the charming and rather mysterious Mason Cross – author of The Killing Season.

Over coffee in the rather fancy drawing room of the Bristol College Green Marriott Hotel we chatted about his fabulous debut novel – one of my favourite reads of 2014 so far – his writing process, and geeked-out about our mutual admiration for all things Lee Child and Jack Reacher.

Here’s the interview …

So Mason, firstly, where do you write?

Lots of places. In the house – at my computer surrounded by CDs and a huge pile of washing. I find it’s really important to have a writing space, like Stephen King said, you need a place to go to and close the door. Also, I travel a lot for work. Commuting into Edinburgh on the train is the optimum place for me to write as there’s no distractions just so long as I don’t get WiFi. Having a full-time job I’ve learnt to grab writing time whenever and wherever I can, so I can write in all different places – pubs, cafes, a park bench.

I find it important to write every day, even if it’s only 500 words. Those 500 words will turn into, say, 3000 words in a week, and in a few months a whole lot more.

Are you a planner or a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pantser?

I always feel guilty admitting to plotting! But I do start out with a fairly detailed synopsis, with the key beats outlined. Right now, I’ve got a five page synopsis for the next book, but I know that as I write the plan will change. So I’m flexible, but I have a path to wander from. I use Powerpoint to plan – one slide per chapter – and build up from there. I find it’s a good way to keep track of the action as I write, and also keep track of the different timelines.

And when it comes to writing when are you most productive – are you a lark or an owl?

An owl – I’m better at night, definitely.

So what about research – do you do it, and if so how and how much?

I tend to research while I’m redrafting. It’s mostly internet based research, so for The Killing Season I looked up the FBI website, read books on serial killers and snipers including Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, which was really helpful on the history of the FBI. And, of course, I read a lot of other thrillers.

Carter Blake is a very mysterious guy. Are you like him and, if so, in what ways?

Like a lot of other thriller writers say about their characters, I think Carter Blake is a cooler, taller, better looking, better in a fight version of me. He tends not to talk about himself, which is something we share, and he’s methodical, which I tend to be too. But the green eyes? They’re completely different!

Actually Banner, the female FBI agent that Carter Blake partners-up with in The Killing Season, is similar to me is some ways too. She has a full-time job, she’s balancing family life, kids alongside – having to sort out a babysitter and get to school play while also doing her job.

Who would play Carter Blake in a movie?

I didn’t really have a person in mind as I wrote. Carter’s still quite a mysterious character even to me!

What authors do you read – who are your inspirations?

I take something from most books I read. My favourites? I guess they’d be Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Robert Crais, Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, John D MacDonald. Oh, and Raymond Chandler – even after all the years since his books were first published they still seem so fresh and the writing is so good.

What’s your favourite all time book?

Must I pick one?! [I said, okay, two then] Well then, The Big Sleep and The Shinning.

What’s your favourite drink?

A Mojito.

And finally, what have you got planned for the rest of 2014/15?

Well, the next book is due out in Spring 2015. It’s called The Samaritan and is set in LA. I’ve also sold a story to Ellery Queen, which I’m really excited about, and it should be out soon. For the rest of 2014 I’ll be promoting The Killing Season.

 

The coffee was finished. The interview was over. And Mason was off to cram in some more Lee Child facts in preparation for his event the following day – Criminal Mastermind.

A huge thank you to Mason for letting me interrogate him!

To find out more about Mason Cross, Carter Blake and The Killing Season, hop over to this website: http://carterblake.net/

And read our review of The Killing Season click here