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.

Dead Pretty by David Mark

dead prettyUsually when I read about towns, cities, countries and even streets I don’t know I always take something away from the story. When I know the area slightly it gives me a sense of familiarity.

I wasn’t expecting to be completely distracted and irritated by the fact that I know all the towns, villages, streets and general area mentioned in this book, intimately. Strangely weird.

I found McAvoy a bit of a conundrum. On one side you have his physical description, which doesn’t gel at all with his behaviour and reactions. Then you have his obsession with crimes and the way he lets the obsession flow into his family life.

Who has picnics with his children in possible crime scenes in the hopes that he discovers a missing girl or rather her corpse. Very strange indeed. Almost macabre, at the very least just downright odd.

McAvoy and Pharaoh have a really strange relationship. I’m not sure whether it is mutual attraction or a meeting of kindred spirits. Pharaoh appears to be completely off the rails where Reuben Hollow is concerned.

Then there is the scene in the kitchen during the home invasion, and the way it was dealt with in the aftermath. Rather than worry about the fact two thugs nearly attacked his wife and Pharaoh’s family, he is more concerned by the doe eyes his wife gives the rescuer. His insecurity is quite bizarre, despite the fact he seems to have a way with women.

I found it a little disjointed at times, despite the interesting plot and memorable characters. It often seemed as if there were lots of threads going off in different directions with little connection to each other.

Mark describes it as Noir, but it doesn’t quite tick all the boxes for that.

Buy Dead Pretty at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Dead Secret by Ava McCarthy

dead secretAt first this felt like a spiel on the film Double Jeopardy, and then it turned pretty dark and a wee bit creepy.

Jodie is a stone cold killer. She deserves to be in prison serving out her prison sentence, or does she? Are the circumstances of the murder crystal clear? Personally I think Ethan got what he deserved.

Imagine you go to all that trouble of killing someone only to find that there is something screwy going on.

Jodie finds a new lease on life and her need for vengeance is reignited after a visit from a down on his luck journalist.

Not only does his news turn her life around, it also sets her on a dangerous journey for the truth. What she discovers threatens to destroy her completely. Sometimes the truth is better left buried. In this case the deeper the better.

There are some rocks that should be left unturned, some truths that need not be spoken.

McCarthy certainly knows how to drive those nails into the coffin and give an extra twist of the knife. Her main character is strong and driven, and the plot is fast-paced with plenty of twists.

Quite a good read.

Buy Dead Secret at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

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This is the second book in the Stephens and Mephisto series. The combination of police inspector and magician/actor is unusual, although to be honest I don’t think Mephisto really carries his half of the detective work.

Two children have gone missing and the hope to find them unharmed is dwindling fast. There seem to suspects galore and plenty of strange connections to nefarious scenarios.

Annie has an obsession with the real origin of fairy-tales. The dark murderous side of old children’s tales. Is that where the truth lies? Is the person who took them connected to her obsession or is the truth hidden in the world of magic and theatre.

Griffiths mixes the pain of the World Wars with the close knitted community of theatre performers. Actors and magicians with their secrets, mysteries and quirks.

The story is set in the 1950’s, before crime scene technology was available and police had to rely on proof other than DNA. Each lead is followed no matter how bizarre or outlandish it may seem.

The beginning was good, but I think Griffiths could have done with making the plot a little tighter towards the end. Incorporating the folk tale and darker side of fairy-tales with the dysfunctional dynamics of family and reality was very interesting.
Overall a pleasant read.

Thank you to NetGalley for my copy of Smoke and Mirrors.
Buy Smoke and Mirrors at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.