Shamus Dust

Shamus Dust by Janet Roger is a stunning homage to the noir novels of Chandler and Hammett. Set in a frozen City of London at the turn of the year in 1947, this is a compelling, twisting page turner that combines a hard boiled American detective in Newman, multiple brutal murders, corrupt city police, femmes fatales (yes more than one!) and more dark secrets than the average reader can cope with.

I loved this novel, the descriptions of London recovering from the blitz are outstanding, the lead character is pitched perfectly and the plot draws all of its threads together elegantly as it draws to a close.

I am looking forward to Janet Roger’s next book, she is a real find! This is as good as it gets – 5/5.

Bloody January

Alan Parks is a new author to me, Bloody January is a bloody good read, Parks is a good new find.

“It became one of those cases cops mark their career by. Peter Manuel, Bible John and Bloody January” This is a sizzler, it bowls along at a good pace through the dark side of 70’s Glasgow, 6 murders in a week, a rebel cop (isn’t there always?), powerful hidden forces trying to stop the investigation. What’s not to like?

If you like Ian Rankin’s Rebus or Michael Connelly’s Bosch then read this, you won’t be disappointed. I definitely want to read the next McCoy from Parks.

4.5/5

Birdcage Walk

There is a dark tension about Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore. This historical thriller/mystery is set in the radical community of Bristol at the end of the 18th century.

Lizzie Fawkes’ mother Julia is an iconic pamphleteer in the radical politics of the time, Lizzie moved from town to town with her mother and stepfather until they settled in Bristol where she met her husband John Diner Tredevant, a builder and developer. As the story unfolds, Lizzie’s husband and mother pull her in different directions while uncertainty gnaws at the reader.

The period and setting are fascinating, the dark tension is pervasive from early on and builds to a good climax but overall there was something contrived and unsatisfying about Birdcage Walk

3.5/5

The Gin Palace Trilogy

The Gin Palace Trilogy by Daniel Judson is set in Southampton, Long Island. The hero ‘Mac’ MacManus is a working class detective in a small town who ‘helps people out’ and gets into some pretty tough situations as a consequence, particularly with the corrupt chief of the local police. Through the series his back story unfolds along with that of his deceased parents, the chief, his friend Augie and the dark figure of Frank Gannon.

These are fast paced, dark and gritty novels, there is a lot of violence and perhaps a few too many unlikely escapes but even so worth a read.

3.5/5

Police at the station and they don’t look friendly

Police at the station and they don’t look friendly is the 6th in a series by Adrian McKinty. How could you resist a novel with a title like that? This was an Amazon “daily offer” which grabbed my attention (but why oh why if you want to get me hooked do you send me the 6th in the series rather than the 1st?).

Sean Duffy, the principal character, is a catholic detective in the Royal Ulster Constabulary based in a staunchly protestant area during The Troubles. A drug dealer is found murdered by crossbow, soon after a similar attack. Is there a serial killer on the loose? Are one of the paramilitary groups responsible? It appears that someone wants to prevent Duffy from getting to the truth but inevitably he is determined to get his man even if they try to murder him as well (wouldn’t be much of a crime novel otherwise).

This is brilliant. It’s dark, gritty, full of twists, turns and surprises and has a nice touch of humour running through it, while providing a very convincing impression of the challenges facing the police in Northern Ireland in the 80’s. McKinty seems to be a real gem and I am looking forward to reading more of his work.

4.5/5 (because almost nothing is perfect)

Blue Light Yokohama

Blue Light Yokohama by Nicholas Obregon is a stunning debut novel set in a very dark Tokyo.

Inspector Iwata, new to Tokyo, is assigned to a brutal  murder that has already caused the suicide of the previous investigating officer. Corruption, cults, flashbacks and more twists and turns than the Corniche, this is a cracking novel that builds to a great climax.

I can’t wait for Obregon’s next book

4.5/5 (nothing’s perfect)

Ragdoll

I wasn’t sure about Ragdoll by Daniel Cole at the beginning, it felt like it was a screenplay rather than a novel. It turned into a cracking page turner and well worth reading.

Ragdoll is a tense and disturbing novel – a dismembered body, a serial killer, confusing and compelling. Loads of twists and turns right to the end. Excellent debut.

If you like PJ Treacy or Michael Billingham, this is one to try

4/5

Dear Amy

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan is a tense thriller that reminded me of Minette Walters’ early novels. Margot is a Cambridge secondary school teacher who also writes an agony aunt “Dear Amy” column for her local paper. Shortly after one of her pupils, Katie, disappears she starts to receive letters asking for help from Bethany who disappeared nearly 20 years previously. As the plot unfolds Margot’s own past life and instability start to become entwined with the fate of Katie and Bethany.

This is a dark and compelling read with more twists and turns than a roller coaster. If you like dark and scary give this a try.

4/5

Dodgers

Dodgers by Bill Beverly was billed as “a powerful debut literary crime novel”.

Easy is a tough kid working for an LA drugs crew managing the look outs for a crack den. When the den gets busted he is forced out of LA on a road trip with three others with the aim of murdering a key witness against the head of the drugs gang. Think road trip, right of passage, and gang psychology.

Dodgers is good dark stuff, I’m not sure that I agree with some of the rave reviews that I read before buying it. Half way through it had lost it’s novelty and I wanted it to be over but it was good enough that I would give Beverly a second read when his next novel is published

3/5

The Thicket

I’d forgotten how much I enjoy Joe R Lansdale, he is a witty writer who tells good hard boiled stories.

The Thicket is set in East Texas at the turn of the century, it’s a combination of a ‘coming of age’ story and a tough bounty hunting chase of a brutal gang of bank robbers and killers. The lead character, Jack Parker, is accompanied by Shorty, a crack shot midget, Eustace, a grave digger and a Jimmy Sue, kind hearted whore on his pursuit of his sister’s kidnappers.

This is a very good read, when you’ve finished you will want to meet more by Lansdale, a great find.

This is at least a 4/5