The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk manThis has a distinctive 70s/80s film and television vibe, which isn’t always a given even if it is roughly set in that era. (Stranger Things vibe is a more accurate reference for younger readers) It also has a Stand By Me flair, that essence of nostalgia and friendships formed in childhood, and to top it off Tudor delivers a subtle layer of creepy horror a la Stephen King.

It has the innocence of days gone by, days when children played outside all day and stayed out till dark. Before technology captured the youth of today and started captivating them with visions of the future. A long time before the monsters who come for our children multiplied to an insurmountable number.

It’s 1986 and Eddie and his friends use chalk men to communicate secret messages to each other. The kind of game that appeals to the secrecy children covet even if it lacks any kind of complexity.

Eddie’s story starts when he witnesses an extremely violent accident, which binds him to the victim and to the man who helps to save her. Mr Halloran becomes a confidante and a saviour to Eddie, whilst Eddie becomes the instrument of his demise.

A few decades later the horror of their childhood is brought back to life when one of the boys decides to rake up The Chalk Man murder, and so begins a journey to the past to discover the truth and the lies.

Tudor brings the whole package with this story. The tension increases as the tale unfolds, and the reader can feel the creepy vibe throughout. The Chalk Man takes on a life of his own, especially in Eddie’s dreams and daily life. It’s an absorbing read and the ending is the cherry on top of the ice-cream sundae.

Oh and FYI Tom Baker is the best Dr.Who. Just Saying.

Buy The Chalk Man at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @cjtudor @MichaelJBooks

Advertisements

#BlogTour Girl Targeted by Val Collins

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for Girl Targeted by Val Collins. It is a tale of murder with an underlying sense of darkness throughout, but not just because of the murder per se. Her main character has a nose for murder, which leads to the discovery of self and snake pit full of lies.

About the Author

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read but writing is a pretty new adventure for me.

Of course I wrote stories when I was very young and I especially loved rewriting the ends of movies but I was an impatient kid and had an unfortunate tendency towards perfectionism. When, at around the age of ten, I realised my attempts at writing dialogue were dire, my writing career came to an abrupt end. A few years ago I decided to try my hand at writing again and Girl Targeted was the eventual result.

Girl Targeted is set in Ireland where I have lived all my life. It’s set in an office, an environment I know well as my entire working life has been spent doing office work. I’ve worked for small and medium sized organisations, for multinationals and for many different business sectors. Unfortunately, I was never lucky enough to come across anything as exciting as a murder so I had to rely on my imagination to create Aoife’s world.

I really loved writing Girl Targeted and I hope you enjoy reading it. Val”

Follow @valcollinsbooks on Twitter or ValCollinsBooks on Facebook

Visit valcollinsbooks.com

Buy Girl Targeted(UK)

Buy Girl Targeted (US)

About the book

A Psychological Thriller/Suspense set in Ireland.

Office jobs can be stressful. Aoife’s may be lethal.

Aoife’s life is finally on track. She’s happily married, pregnant with her first child and has the world’s best mother-in-law. But when Aoife accepts a job as an office temp, her entire life begins to unravel. Is one of Aoife’s colleagues a murderer? Is Aoife the next target? Why is her husband unconcerned?

Can office politics lead to murder? Girl Targeted is a perfect read for fans of Behind Closed Doors, Girl on a Train and the Silent Wife.

Review

It is a tale of murder with an underlying sense of darkness throughout, but not because of the murder per se. The feeling of fear, uncertainty and confusion comes from an entirely different place.

The story pulls the reader in two directions, and if I am being completely frank, I am not sure that was intentional. I think the relationship between Aoife and Jason was supposed to be a mere distraction in the background with the murder mystery taking centre stage. Personally I found their relationship and the clear message it sends, far more compelling than Aoife playing a very young and naive Miss Marple.

There was one thing that bothered me about Girl Targeted, and I could not be clearer about it being a personal preference thereby having nothing to do with how much I enjoyed the read. When it comes to names that look one way and are pronounced a completely different way I tend to suffer from my very own version of the Stroop Effect. Example: the word purple being written in red, do not read the word say the colour. So, the same happened with the name Aoife. Pronounced Ee-faa (and yes the author does tell the reader how to say it), my mind says Oyff. I was annoyed by own brain going Oyff nope Ee-faa the entire time. ‘Sigh’

I digress.

Let’s get back to what really had me intrigued when it came to this story. On the surface Aoife and Jason appear to be a happy young couple with a new baby. Jason’s views are perhaps a wee bit chauvinistic, but there is nothing wrong him wanting her to stay at home with the baby, right. There is however something wrong with Jason. He wants to control all the money, the narrative and who Aoife meets or talks to.

Wrapped in a bubble of apparent concern is the insidious nature of the beast called abuse. Jason uses emotional abuse to control Aoife. He uses neglect and coercion to convince her to do everything he wants. He traces her every move, controls every penny and manipulates others to get his wife to do what he wants.

It seems almost innocent and can easily be mistaken for overprotective love or concern for a loved one, which is often how an abusive partner gets away with it. They try and take away any financial freedom, make the victim dependent upon them in every way and seclude them from family and friends. Extreme jealousy and paranoia are usually precursors for abusive behaviour.This element of the story, and the way it evolved, was really interesting.

Girl Targeted is a murder mystery with the serious topic of abuse woven into the story. The main character has a nose for murder, which leads to the discovery of self and a snake pit full of lies.

Buy Girl Targeted at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

the silent companionsIt is has a gothic spooky feel to it mixed with a wee bit of horror.

The reader follows the story of two women in the same grand house. One in the distant past and the other  in the more past. Elsie’s story starts in an insane asylum charged with quite a few murders. The doctor in charge is trying to get her to communicate, because he is convinced there must be more to the story. Why would a well situated woman suddenly go off the deep end and cause such brutal mayhem?

Before ending up in the asylum Elsie is pregnant, has just recently lost her husband and is returning to his childhood home accompanied by her husband’s impoverished cousin. This isn’t exactly her choice, as her decisions are being made by her much younger brother. Her brother is more concerned about the way it looks to society and any possible scandals. Women weren’t allowed to own anything per se in that era and any property, inherited or otherwise would always fall to the men. This includes husbands, brothers, fathers and cousins.

It isn’t long before the women in the household start experiencing strange events. Footprints and messages in the dust, empty rooms suddenly become fully furnished clean ones, and peculiar wooden statues start appearing throughout the house.

A peaceful retreat turns into a fight for sanity and a fight to survive. Elsie finds herself drawn into the dark abyss of the past and the personal tragedies of the previous inhabitants of the house.

It’s a decent premise, however the execution could have been better. The companions are an excellent idea, they give the whole story a creepy vibe, and the ending is wonderfully macabre. Purcell is creative enough to pull off a great story, this one just needs a bit of a polish.

Buy The Silent Companions at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @spookypurcell @BloomsburyRaven

Visit laurapurcell.com

Blog-Tour: Ice Lake by John A. Lenahan

It’s my stop on the Blog-Tour for Ice Lake by John Lenahan. Be prepared to be entertained by his amusing and sharp-witted characters, and his environmentally driven assiduous crime story.

About the Author

John Lenahan is a popular TV magician who toured with Jack Dee, Lenny Henry and Victoria Wood. He starred on a prime time BBC1 TV show, had his own BBC2 series, and was the voice of the toaster in ‘Red Dwarf’.

His fantasy trilogy Shadowmagic, an award-winning podcast that received over 100,000 downloads, was published by HarperCollins and sold over 70,000 copies across all editions.

Ice Lake is his debut crime novel, the first in a new series featuring psychologist Harry Cull.

Read more about John Lenahan and his books

Follow @johnlenahan @KillerReads @HarperCollinsUK

About the book

An electrifying debut crime novel and the first in a new series featuring psychologist Harry Cull.

An abandoned body…

Deep in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the body of a man is found – shot three times, dumped under the trees where the local kids will find him.

A haunted psychologist…

Psychologist Harry Cull, tormented by his past, arrives in the picturesque town of Ice Lake to help with the murder investigation. There he unravels a web of lies and deceit that leads to the dark heart of a community torn apart by fracking, drugs and murder.

A desperate killer…

It’s not long before the second corpse turns up, this time a lawyer left for dead in the forest, and Harry finds himself on the trail of a twisted killer – who will do anything to keep the town’s darkest secrets buried.

Review

Harry Cull is not only a trained polygraph examiner and psychologist, he is also a wee bit of a human lie detector. He can read his fellow humans like books. He also isn’t very subtle about telling them what he can read in their faces, voices and body language. His very direct approach often leads him into some uncomfortable and often contentious situations.

The interactions between Harry and Todd are especially funny, although Harry and Edward Cirba come a close second as a comedy duo. It is this light-hearted touch that makes the story flow in a way that distracts the reader from the dangerous elements of the story. It almost lulls them into believing it is safe.

Hidden behind the dry humour and sharp observational skills is a world of pain. Harry has been dealing with a personal tragedy. The kind of tragedy you don’t recover from. His personal problems make him a little bit paranoid when it comes to connecting the dots in perhaps completely unrelated crimes.

The author also tackles the issue of fracking, which is an important hot topic at the moment. He does this in a way even laymen can understand both sides of the argument. This definitely applies to the ‘loophole’ that was created, so fracking companies can get away with not only contaminating the water supply, but also being able to dispose of waste illegally in a completely legal way.

Lenahan infuses his crime with his very own brand of banter and wit. Sarcastic tongue lashings and cheeky comments are plentiful in this crime story driven by environmental topics. The author plays with the idiosyncrasies and eccentricities of small town people in a way that is beneficial to both the characters and the story. I always enjoy walking away from a read with the feeling that I have added to my pot of knowledge.

Buy Ice Lake at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @johnlenahan @KillerReads @HarperCollinsUK

That Night by Chevy Stevens

that nightToni hasn’t had the luxury of building a career or a life. She and her boyfriend have been stuck behind bars for over 15 years for the vicious murder of her younger sister.

After the two of them are released Ryan decides he wants revenge, which ruffles quite a few feathers. Suddenly every crime in town is being laid at their feet.

Ryan and Toni have a target on their backs yet again. Knowing the truth about what happened isn’t the same as being able to prove it.

One of the things that really annoyed me was the reaction of the parents. No compassion for Toni at all. Not an inkling of doubt about the fact she has become a vicious killer overnight.

I’m sure there are quite a few readers who have grown up in a situation where the youngest daughter is treated like a ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ princess.

Fact is Toni tried to warn her parents, especially her mother, but she wouldn’t listen. It’s easier to presume the guilt of the elder daughter than question that of the supposedly innocent younger daughter.

The other issue was the way Toni reacted to them being in her house and her room. Seriously? Come on now. They would have been flying out backwards if it had been me, and the sister would have experienced my wrath. Don’t ever mess with the inner sanctum.

The plot is fine, a bit predicable perhaps, but the writing is a bit on the amateur side. Way too she said, he said.

Buy That Night at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

missing piecesThis didn’t really do it for me.

I think the real culprit was obvious pretty much from the get go. A wee bit of a psycho vibe going on there. A tiny niggle here and there was later confirmed.

Jack makes it hard for for Sarah to trust him. She has no idea about his past, the murder in his family or his past liaison with his brother’s wife.

Sarah feels boxed into a tiny corner by the events in her husband’s home-town. Who can be trusted? Is there anyone on her side? Is Jack just playing some kind of sick game with her life and that of her children.

Suddenly the man she has loved for many years is not only a stranger, but also a potential multiple killer. On top of that Jack seems to be really cosy with his ex. Talk about making someone look like a complete fool. I think I would be slightly angry and overly cautious too under those circumstances.

From the very beginning Jack and Sarah appear to be complete strangers, despite the fact they have been married for a few decades and have two children. Perhaps that is what makes everything seem so disconnected. Baring that the characters might just have lacked depth.

Overall it felt a bit messy, but it was an ok read.

Buy Missing Pieces at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

the passengerIt might just have been me, but there were so many identities that at one point I lost the plot and couldn’t figure out who was who any more.

Let’s not even talk about who the heck Jo is or was, because I wasn’t sure whether she was Blue or Amelia at first.

Not sure if the initial confusion was intentional or not, all I know is the story became clearer after the first 25%.

After that, despite not being able to see the forest for all the trees, it became much clearer and was quite a good read.

So much so that Blue and Jo have the potential to be a series or have a sequel. I can totally see the two of them taking out bad guys as a kind of Thelma and Louise couple.

Jo turns out be a woman running from one identity and life to another, and another and another one. Keeping track of how many and how many things she is running away from becomes a wee bit of a task for the reader and for Jo for that matter.

She meets Blue, who is in a similar position, and that’s when things turn from difficult to ‘there is no turning back.’ Jo doesn’t question the motives of the blue-eyed beauty, but perhaps she should have.

Blue seems to recognise something in Jo that she sees within herself. She is willing to cross boundaries when necessary, even those of a murderous variety.

Lutz knows how to spin a tale, but this could have done with a little more clarity.

Buy The Passenger at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.