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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

‘Blame’ By Jeff Abbott

Published by Sphere,
28 December 2017.
ISBN 978-0-7515-5733-6 (PBO)

Over the last few years there have been a large number of books published with amnesiacs as the main character. However, I enjoyed this stand-alone psychological mystery thriller. I think mainly because the main character (although not particularly likeable) is well drawn. Jane Norton is suffering the mental, emotional, and psychological effects of losing her memory.  Her identity, as a developing teenager, has been eradicated and self-discovery is at the heart of the story. Jane has regressed back to the sulky difficult early teen years. Her outlook is sarcastic and scathing but about everything, including herself, as she struggles to make sense of things. 

Jane Norton is a lost girl, hiding away in a friend’s dorm-room on the university campus, living a marginal existence. Although she has a home at her mother’s house the relationship has soured and she has been living on the streets - rather than stay there and become more fodder for her mother’s web blog.

Jane is a misfit and leads an almost nomadic lifestyle, no longer comfortable anywhere. Two years previously she was involved in a car crash, which killed her friend David and left her with amnesia. At first, everyone was sympathetic, then they found Jane's note saying that she wished they were dead together’. As Jane was driving, everyone assumed it was a suicide attempt. From that day, the small privileged community she grew up in shunned her, she was ostracised by friends, and dropped out of college.

Jane is riddled with guilt and questions. She doesn’t understand why she was with David or why they were on that isolated road. When she receives an anonymous message on the anniversary of the accident, saying ‘I know what really happened. I know what you don't remember…’ she sets about trying to uncover the truth so that she can move on with her life.

With characters that are gritty and real, the reader is taken on a tense journey of discovery. Jane is angry and volatile, and the reader wonders how reliable she is, and what secrets she has buried from herself. As the cast of characters increases and Jane gets closer to the truth, all manner of ideas about what happened are hinted at but the motivations to the mystery are quite unexpected.
Reviewed by Christine Hammacott

Jeff Abbott graduated from Rice University with a degree in History and English. H is the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of many mystery and suspense novels. He has been called “one of the best thriller writers in the business”
He lives in Austin with his wife and two sons.

 Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. To read a review of her debut novel The Taste of Ash click on the title.

twitter: /ChrisHammacott

‘The Twelve Dogs of Christmas’ by David Rosenfelt

Published by Minotaur,
10 October 2017.
ISBN 978-1-2501-4561-1(PB)

Andy Carpenter is more interested in sports than the law, but that hardly stops him from winning murder cases.  This one starts when a zoning board cites a friend of his, Martha “Pups” Boyer, for having too many pets on her premises, the law permitting merely three.  The complainant is a neighbor who is subsequently murdered, and “Pups” is accused of shooting him.

It is up to Andy and his rag tag team to uncover what essentially is a plot against “Pups” to solve the case.  All the evidence seems to indicate her guilt: she was seen as she was leaving the scene of the murder; the murder weapon was found in her basement; and it was the same gun used to kill her husband and another a year or so earlier.  The trial against “Pups” includes a charge for the murder of her husband.

Each of the novels in the series combines mystery, courtroom drama and humor throughout, and Twelve Dogs repeats the formula.  The final twist in this novel, however, not only is the usually unexpected fillip, but is based on Andy’s passion for sports.   Recommended.
Reviewer: Ted Feit

David Rosenfelt is the Edgar-nominated and Shamus Award-winning author of several stand-alones and a dozen Andy Carpenter novels, including Who Let the Dog Out? After years living in California, he and his wife moved to Maine with twenty-five golden retrievers that they've rescued. Rosenfelt's hilarious account of this cross-country move, Dogtripping, is available from St. Martin's Press.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

‘The Mother’ by Jaime Raven

Published by Avon/HarperCollins,
7 September 2017.
ISBN: 978-0-00-825346-2

This very commercial thriller kept me engrossed: it is an absolute page-turner. I picked it up every available minute in mid-December and Christmas preparations suffered as a result.

The protagonist is Sarah Mason, a divorced female detective. Her little girl Molly is abducted and Sarah receives a series of scary messages from the kidnapper saying she’s been taken to punish Sarah, and won’t ever be given back. Instead Sarah will be sent photos of her daughter settling into a new life and forgetting that Sarah was ever her mummy. Meanwhile, if Sarah should do anything the kidnapper doesn’t want her to do, like releasing the photos to the media, as inadvertently happens, her little girl will suffer the consequences. It is a very frightening premise and it’s not surprising that Sarah, unaware of any such vicious enemy, falls to pieces.

Sarah’s ex-husband Adam meanwhile, also a detective, is devastated too, but channels his fear into action. Ignoring orders from the police team investigating, he acts on his own suspicions and begins to make progress, handing the police useful leads through some ballsy confrontations. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but the novel is well plotted and hangs together beautifully, with a particularly nice twist relating to the reason for the abduction. The solution to who had taken Molly, and why, is convincing and while I was a little ahead of Sarah and Adam in reaching the answer, it added to the enjoyment – I suspect that was the author’s plan. Nothing more satisfying than thinking: I was right. And the climax was as heart-stopping as you could wish for.

The Mother is going to please mightily. And it was certainly un-putdownable; thank goodness I finished it before Christmas Eve!
Reviewer: Dea Parkin

DeaParkin  is an editor with her consultancy Fiction Feedback and is also Secretary of the Crime Writers’ Association. She writes poetry and occasionally re-engages with The Novel. When she isn't editing, managing or writing she is usually to be found on the tennis court – or following the international tour at home on TV. Usually with several books on the go, she entertains a penchant for crime fiction, history, and novels with a mystical edge. She is engaged in a continual struggle to find space for bookshelves and time for her friends and her cat.