Kill or Die by Ann Evans – Review

This book has been my surprise of the year so far.

A first in the genre from Evans, Kill or Die is nonetheless a fine display of skill and confidence from a seasoned writer who makes smart choices in her prose and choice of narrative. Evans’ immersive and descriptive prose excels in engaging the reader and in stimulating a cascade of very vivid images of the setting and her characters.

Well-crafted, and natural-feeling dialogue, utilising a mixture of long and short sentence structure, augment the already good characterisation. Combined with Evans use of Body language to covey intent and emotion, this elevates the characterisation to another level and places it amongst the most skilled I’ve read in a while.

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A third-person, past-tense narrative throughout suits the plot and propels the characters and their deeds along at a fair old clip. Kill or Die is seeped in suspense, eliciting a deep sense of unease and conflict throughout. The novel is permeated with a measured tension that I really enjoyed. With her choice to place Julia and her daughter front and centre, Evans appears to effortlessly tap into the subconscious fears all parents harbour and suppress and asks her readers to explore their own unease.

How far would you go to protect your child? Answer: As far as you had to.

A great new addition to the publisher’s catalogue and yet another declaration of Bloodhound’s intent to continue to develop quality books and writers.

 

You can find Ann and her books at Bloodhound Books and a Amazon

Witness Statement: author CP Wilson

By far the most fun I’ve ever had doing an interview.

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AliceCrime fiction takes us to the darkest domains of the human condition. It’s a psychologically safe space where inspired writers can explore criminal, social and moral injustice – hooking the audience with a compelling narrative and captivating characters.

‘Ice Cold Alice’ does all this and more. On one level, it’s a rollicking romp of revenge with a violent vigilante who explodes onto the social media scene, punishing the evil, protecting the innocent and challenging the authorities. Peel back the layers and it becomes a deeply personal study of the soul of society – our society, which turns a blind eye to generations of domestic abuse.
Time to ask the author some tough questions, then.

‘Ice Cold Alice’ is a fabulous title. Likewise, Alice’s online alias of ‘Tequila Mockingbird’. Wonderful wordplay which works on several levels. That’s not a question, just a shameless moment of flattery to soften you up…
Thanks…

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After Call Work: Gross Misconduct by Ryan Bracha – Review

This novel is a sequel to After Call Work: Verbal Warning which was one of my favourite books of 2016.
In This follow-up, subtitled ‘Gross Misconduct’, we once again encounter the insipid call centre introduced in Book 1. Rather than simply continue the story, utilising the same characters, and expanding on the previous events, Bracha has chosen to introduce a handful of new characters for his readers to love, as well as build on some familiar players from Book 1.
As is Bracha’s custom, he avoids the easy route and avoids giving his readers a simple sequel to the previous work, choosing instead to tell a story that runs parallel to the events in Book 1, with the plotlines overlapping, converging and diverging. This decision is exactly the type of work ethic and tight plotting that makes Bracha the standout Indie writer on the UK scene.
Bracha continues to grow as a writer, utilising a simple, unflashy, first-person, present-tense narrative, but peppering it with some lovely technical quirks, my favourite of which is the odd occasion where he breaks the fourth wall, slyly making the reader complicit In his character’s choices and self-justifications.
Despite this choice of narrative style, Bracha’s precise characterisation lends each of his players a distinct and unmistakable voice. It’s quite a feat.

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Another step forward in Bracha’s development, and quite simply a fantastically entertaining read.

 

You can find Ryan and his books at Amazon

The Crying Boy by Jane E James – Review

The Crying Boy is an excellent myth on which to base a novel and one that Jane James clearly has some in depth knowledge on. The opening section of the book – in first-person from the painting’s POV- really jolted me, hard. This was an excellent section, wholly immersive, tantalisingly creepy and pitch-perfect in the narrative choice. It also demonstrated a particular strong grasp and use of dialogue by James. All in, The Crying Boy has one of the strongest openings to any book I’ve read. Ever.

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With such an accomplished opening, I had high expectations going into the rest of the book, which for the most part were met.

Utilising a third-person, present-tense throughout, Jane’s prose is accomplished and very descriptive, skilfully immersing the reader in the musty, opaque corridors of the world James exposes them to. I was slightly disappointed by the lack of dialogue present in parts of the book, mostly because the writer demonstrated a high degree of skill in writing the spoken word in the earliest scenes of the book, making me want more… a lot more. As a result of this reduction in dialogue, the prose felt a little exposition-heavy at times for my tastes, but perhaps, where dialogue is concerned, others will find that less is more in this case.

For me personally I’d like to have seen more interactions between the characters similar to those that took place in the prologue. Similarly, I’d have liked to have seen the painting’s ‘character’ pushed to the fore. This was a skilful use of characterisation, and an adept use of alternative viewpoint. For me, the novel would have benefited from a greater presence of this ‘character’. Perhaps even as the main protagonist throughout.

Despite a few minor quibbles, most of which are wholly subjective, I really enjoyed The Crying Boy. James’ novel is a fine example of an eerie, insular, tightly-cornered beast of a story; all threatening corners and complex emotions and characters. To read, it felt like watching an early John Carpenter movie, like The Thing. Seeped in intrigue and threatening presence.  It’s a book I know that I’ll revisit several times, as it is one of those reads in which the reader finds something new to love or fear or recoil from on each visit.

A very accomplished story from a skilled author.

 

You can find Jane E James at Bloodhound Books

The Redemption of Charm by Frank Westworth – Review

The Redemption of Charm by Frank Westworth – Review

 

The Redemption of Charm is the third in a series from Westworth. In a genre I don’t normally read, and rarely enjoy when I do, this book is an excellent piece of writing and a fine demonstration of Westworth’s skill with characters he is clearly well-acquainted with.

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Written in third-person, past-tense throughout, Westworth still manages to give each segment and character their distinctiveness, despite maintain the same POV and tense throughout. He accomplishes this by using clever little quirks to his characters’ dialogue and even the sentence structure during exposition. Short, punchy comments and dialogue, loaded with vitriol and intent are perfectly utilised to convey emotion and pace in the narrative. This is a seasoned writer doing what he knows best.

 

A skilled veteran of the genre, producing a fine contribution that sets the bar for his peers.

Anglesey Blue by Dylan H Jones – Review

Anglesey Blue is a pleasant surprise in a genre I rarely read. Written in 3rd-person, past-tense (again, uncommon in the genre), Jones’ narrative flows well and engages the reader effectively. Despite being a little exposition-heavy at times (for my taste) Jones’ excellent dialogue offsets what could’ve been a minor quibble in the chunks of exposition.

The dialogue feels ‘current’ in a way that many crime writer’s don’t always manage and always has purpose, whether in moving the plot forward or in slowly peeling away to reveal more depth to the characters than one might expect. For me this displayed an impressive technique in showing rather than telling in the dialogue sections, and clearly a strength for this writer.

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The plotting is tight, and mostly pacey, but where it lacks pace, I sensed important groundwork and character development being laid down for future stories, which is always welcome.

 A very solid start to a series. I will definitely pick up the next book.

You can find Dylan H Jones at Bloodhound Books and Amazon.

Beautiful Liar by Louise Mullins – Review

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Mullins’ Novel is an uneasy read. Shedding many of the characteristics of the bog-standard ‘psychological thriller’ Beautiful Liar flips back and forth between past and present, gradually revealing the path to the murder the reader encounters in the book’s opening pages.

The first-person, present-tense narrative works well enough, mostly because the alternating between Joel and Erica’s segments is startling due to the stark differences between the characters’ personalities. So much so that perhaps using different POVs or tense may have been overkill.

Joel is skilfully manipulative, in the way that many controlling men and abusers can often be. Mullins has done an admirable job of conveying his presence, without ever resorting to moustache-twirling.

Despite the situation she is placed in, and my sympathies with Erica, as well as my support for her dispatching of her husband, I didn’t always like her, which made me like the book more than I might have had I found a Mary-Sue.

I’m unsure whether this is Mullins’ debut novel or not, it certainly doesn’t read like one, rather it shows a writer who is well along in her development and demonstrating her skill.

 

Beautiful Liar is available now from Bloodhound Books and at Amazon