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.

Blog Tour: The Ripper Gene by Michael Ransom

Today it is my turn on the Blog Tour for The Ripper Gene by Michael Ransom. I am thrilled to be able to give away a hardcover copy of The Ripper Gene to one of you lucky readers! All courtesy of Forge Books/MacMillan and Michael Ransom.

To enter the giveaway just do one of the following (or all of them if you want), Retweet the giveaway tweet on Twitter or send me a DM, comment on this post or for the readers, who value a little anonymity just send me a quick email to mm_cheryl@yahoo.co.uk. The winner will be revealed on Friday the 30th of October!

Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of The Ripper Gene.

About the Author:

Michael Ransom is a molecular pharmacologist and a recognized expert in the fields of toxicogenomics and pharmacogenetics. He is widely published in scientific journals and has edited multiple textbooks in biomedical research.

He is currently a pharmaceutical executive and an adjunct professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Raised in rural Mississippi, he now makes his home in northern New Jersey. The Ripper Gene is his first novel.

Follow Michael Ransom on Facebook, Twitter @MRansomBooks, Goodreads and at michaelransombooks.com

About The Ripper Gene:

A neuroscientist-turned-FBI-profiler discovers a gene that produces psychopaths in this thrilling debut novel.

Dr. Lucas Madden is a neuroscientist-turned-FBI profiler who first gained global recognition for cloning the ripper gene and showing its dysfunction in the brains of psychopaths.

Later, as an FBI profiler, Madden achieved further notoriety by sequencing the DNA of the world’s most notorious serial killers and proposing a controversial “damnation algorithm” that could predict serial killer behavior using DNA alone.

Now, a new murderer—the Snow White Killer—is terrorizing women in the Mississippi Delta. When Mara Bliss, Madden’s former fiancée, is kidnapped, he must track down a killer who is always two steps ahead of him. Only by entering the killer’s mind will Madden ultimately understand the twisted and terrifying rationale behind the murders—and have a chance at ending the psychopath’s reign of terror.

Review:

The Ripper Gene has quite a fascinating premise, perhaps not really as far-fetched as it may seem. We live in an era of technology and amazing advancements in medicine and genetics. Now in the 21st century parents can dictate the gender of their child, filter out hereditary diseases or extra chromosomes. Designer babies in a world of commercialism.

So, let’s say scientists made it possible, in the near future, to not only discover whether someone has the so-called warrior gene, but also find out if they are a psychopath or sociopath. Then taking it one step further being able to discover the genetic footprint of their possible heinous crimes,  and how they will perpetrate them.

The ability to recognize and perhaps even track specific individuals, who are predetermined to commit horrific crimes. Not quite a simple as that is it? First of all there is simply no way to determine whether they will actually kill or which external factors they will be influenced by. Would you want to know if you have a gene like that or whether one of your loved ones could possibly be a serial killer in the making?

Even with all of the information on the Ripper Gene, Dr Lucas Madden still can’t manage to keep up with a vicious serial killer. Always one step and one body ahead of the police, the murderous monster is playing cat and mouse games with Lucas.

When events take a personal turn Lucas finds himself in the middle of a dangerous triangle of lies, death and false memories. He suddenly comprehends that although he thinks he is in control of the situation and his analysis of the Ripper Gene in the killer, he is actually just a pawn in a violent killing spree.

The Ripper Gene is an intriguing blend of science, crime and psychological thriller. It grips you and draws you in from the first few pages. Ransom knows how to combine the science and fictional elements without losing the attention of the reader. For a debut novel it is a very strong start.

The Ripper Gene [Forge Books/MacMillan] is available on Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and in brick-and-mortar bookstores across North America.

Chance by Peter Dudgeon

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Ask yourself what you would do if you were able to see crimes being committed before they had actually happened.

Being fully aware of the fact that if you do intervene in a future event, you may actually be changing future itself and something worse could happen instead.

Now put yourself in the place of a child in this position. Everyone puts your visions down to childish fantasies and an overactive imagination. Spot on predictions are called coincidences and blown off by the adults in her life.

They seem to think a lot of her ‘stories’ are related to her less than stellar home life. Her mother is dealing with addiction issues, because of this Cassie suffers from the neglect and bad decision-making of her parent.

Cassie has quite a good understanding of what she can see and how, despite being so young. She knows that her visions are events and people she can see through the eyes of another person. Unfortunately for Cassie she is seeing through the eyes of a sadistic killer. A dangerous, ruthless killer with no remorse and a taste for pain.

I’m going to leave it at that lest I reveal some of the twists in the plot.Well maybe just a few more things. It was interesting to see how the lack of trust between parent and child changed throughout the story, and how the mother regains it.

Dudgeon has created a fast paced thriller with an unexpected ending. Despite his main character being a very young girl, the story never veers from the well thought through adult plot. It could do with a little more smoothness in the dialogues, but the author makes up for it with the creative twists.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.

To buy Chance on Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Circle, the sequel to Chance by Peter Dudgeon.

Baseball Dads by Matthew S. Hiley

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Well I have to give it to Hiley, he absolutely does warn the reader what they are in for before the book even gets started. He also says he doesn’t care and isn’t interested whether you happen to be offended or not.

The chances of you being offended or being offended on behalf of someone else, at some point during the book, are fairly high.

It is violent, crude and graphic. Hiley leaves no stone unturned, whether it be politics, religion, race or sexuality.
I cringed, I gasped and I think at one point I shut my eyes and shook my head.

Now, I understand what Hiley was trying to do. It is supposed to be a satirical, dark comedy with a huge finger pointing at the hypocrisy in our society. Does it do that? Yes it does, but at times it just seems like a step too far to make a point.

Personally I felt the surrounding story, and that is all it is, a bit of a story to go with all the barbs and jibes, was a bit of a let down. It needed to be just as hard-hitting as the rest of the dark comedy.

If you like your satire tough and chewy, and your comedy on the blacker side of dark then Hiley may just be your cup of tea.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

First One Missing by Tammy Cohen

First One

I think I figured it out somewhere in the middle of the book. It was something that was said or perhaps just a specific gesture and I suddenly had this whole scenario in my head, but I thought it might be a little outlandish.

I have to give it to Cohen, it was certainly a really interesting plot and ending.

I’m not sure whether Megan’s Angels is just a morbid extension of the extreme events. Is it really helping the parents or just making them tread water?

Much like the family liaison officers, who are assigned to each of the families. They are like odd family member nobody wants to see. It is their job to inform the families of new developments or in this case another murder. Of course then the families have to go through the whole events over and over again, which means they can’t move on.

Not that you ever really move on from the death of a child, especially when it involves abduction and homicide. In this particular scenario questions of guilt are bounced around and suspicions grow where certain family members are concerned.

To complicate matters Leanne has let her personal life interfere with her professional one. I found her actions quite unprofessional and hard to swallow. Not only does she ignore vital evidence she also crosses the line of ethical behaviour.

Talking about unethical, Cohen really sheds a light on the behaviour of the press and media in these tragic situations. Reporters are willing to blackmail, lie, steal and betray anyone for a good story. They have no respect for the victims or those left behind.

If you’re looking for a crime with a bit of a twist then this certainly delivers a big one.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Blog-Tour: Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Today I would like to welcome Mary Kubica and her book Pretty Baby to the blog. When I read her first novel The Good Girl, I knew she would be an author to watch. She has an intriguing way of mixing the boundaries of right and wrong, the criminal mind and the moral guidelines we live our lives by. I hope you enjoy the fabulous Q&A with Mary Kubica and my review of Pretty Baby.

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About the author

Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.

She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter. Her debut novel, The Good Girl, was an international bestseller.

Visit Mary online at www.marykubica.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/pages/Mary-Kubica-Author, and on Twitter at twitter.com/MaryKubica

Q&A

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty about your book, I would like to do a set of questions called ‘Break the Ice.’

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know) Lori Nelson Spielman’s Sweet Forgiveness, which is a fabulous follow up to her internationally bestselling debut The Life List.

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)? 12 Years a Slave.

Are you more of a Game of Thrones, Outlander gal? (Any kind of TV entertainment that makes you smirk, giggle or gasp.) I honestly don’t watch much in the way of TV. In our house, the television is incessantly tuned into the Disney Channel for the kids, though if I were to watch something it would likely be some sort of police drama or home decorating show.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? Joan of Arc. I’m a bit of a history guru and have always been fascinated with her resilience and fortitude.

Something you treat yourself to, now and again? (Cream éclairs totally count, I myself have a small Twinkie affliction.) Anything chocolate! I have a terrible sweet tooth.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Pretty Baby.

One of the elements I really enjoy about your stories is the way you mix our natural assumptions about what we perceive as good and bad in human beings. The boundaries between morally right and justifiably wrong. Readers are never quite sure where to place your characters, because often they cross back and forth over those boundaries, depending on the situations they find themselves in. So with that in mind…

The first question that popped into my head when I was reading the first few chapters, was about our society in general. Do you believe the bystander effect or bystander apathy is becoming more prevalent in our world and society, and if so, why? I don’t know that it’s becoming more or less prevalent than before, but it is prevalent. It seems common for people to be apathetic to societal issues and believe that someone else will intervene in a certain situation (in the case of PRETTY BABY, the plight of the homeless or children falling through the cracks of an overwhelmed foster care system) and so instead we’re prone to watch and do nothing or simply walk away. We naively believe – or hope – that someone else will help. The person who does step in to intercede seems to be quite extraordinary these days.

Would you have done the same thing for Willow and Ruby if it had been you in Heidi’s shoes? I would not. I think Heidi does a very noble thing by trying to help Willow and Ruby, and yet she also puts her family at risk when she brings this homeless girl and her baby into her home without knowing who they truly are. There are certainly other options for someone in Heidi’s position: she could have given Willow money or she could have sought the help of a homeless shelter or a social service organization.  But that said, Heidi did take the initiative to help, and I certainly commend her for this.

Would it have been better for Willow in the long run, if she hadn’t received any information about Lily throughout the years? It’s hard to say what might have happened had things occurred differently in the novel.  Willow may have been able to move on and find distance from her baby sister had she not received regular updates from Lily’s adoptive family, or Willow’s mind may have made up for lack of details and taken her to places she didn’t want to go. It could certainly go either way.

At this point a shout out to social workers and the heavy burden they have to carry. Do you think a lot of children slip through the system and become easy prey, because most systems in place for children’s welfare are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work? I can’t speak to this with any sort of certainty, as Willow is one fictional child who managed to slip through the cracks of an overwhelmed system, but I would have to assume it happens. We hear quite often about abused children and the flaws within the foster care system, and it seems as if more priority or manpower or financial backing needs to be placed on the plight of these children.

I felt as if part of the blame (most of it) for the Joseph ‘situation’ was placed on Willow by Louise Flores and Amber Adler, perhaps in an attempt to placate their own guilt. Although we see loads of campaigns about children speaking up about abuse, do you think society still makes them feel as if they won’t be believed, because the truth is more uncomfortable for everyone? Victim blaming is often prevalent in many crimes, whether it’s a child or an adult who is the victim.  Often times, these victims feel they won’t be believed, or that they have more to lose if they speak up against their ill treatment and abuse. I think it’s important that society makes victims feel safe and gives them a voice to speak up against their abuser without any backlash by the offender or society.

I couldn’t decide whether to feel sorry for Heidi, annoyed by her or angered by her actions. I do think you hit upon an important subject where she is concerned though. Women are expected to deal with certain situations without complaining, despite their heart being torn in two. Do you think Heidi would have made the same choices in regard to Ruby and Willow if she had received adequate care and counselling at the appropriate time in her life?Without giving away any spoilers, Heidi is suffering from the overwhelming effects of loss in her life, something which she has tried hard to ignore, leaving those feelings to stew rather than heal. Her life most would certainly have taken a different route had she sought treatment for her grief at the appropriate time rather than masking the affliction for years.

Lastly I would like to thank you for answering all my questions, both the bizarre and the more story focused ones. Thank you so much for having me!

Review:24843746

After the phenomenal success of her novel The Good Girl, Kubica is back with another compelling read. The type of read that makes you have a conversation with the fictional main characters of a book.

Women are expected to shut up and endure, swallow and forget. It doesn’t really matter why or what, they are just expected to grin and bear whatever comes their way.

When you spend years of bottling up your emotions without any outlet, psychological and sometimes even physical damage is the result of those pent-up emotions.

In Heidi’s case the shut up and put on a brave face façade begins to crumble when she invites Willow and Ruby into her house and her life. She slowly becomes obsessed with Ruby, and the thought of Willow leaving makes her almost irrational.

Once again Mary Kubica leaves it up to the reader to decide who the bad guys and the good guys are. Believe you me, it is never so cut and dry with a Kubica story. The truth of the matter is that there is a bit of both in all of us.

Kubica merges important social topics with emotional scenarios and family dynamics. She delves into the foster care system, child abuse and most importantly the apathy of our society towards the most vulnerable.

The opening chapters are an eye-opener and are food for thought. What would you do in the same situation? Look away or show some compassion? Unfortunately in the world we live in the number of incidents taking place in connection with the so-called bystander effect are on the rise. People look away rather than get involved. In a way this is one of the reasons Heidi reaches out instead of just turning her back.

This is a psychological thriller with muddied waters when it comes to the good guys and the bad guys, but then that is exactly what Kubica excels at.
Thank you to MIRA UK, Harlequin UK and Mary Kubica for my copy of Pretty Baby.

To buy Pretty Baby at Amazon UK or for other retailers go to Goodreads.

Read The Good Girl and Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica.

Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs

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Is it just me or has Tempe received a new lease on life? She seems so rejuvenated, full of energy and a lot like her younger self. She is a breath of fresh air and impulsiveness in this book.

Things also come to a head with Tempe and Ryan. If you read the last book, Bones Never Lie, you will remember just how difficult runaway Ryan was. Instead of seeking solace and comfort, he just up and left for the hills.

Huge kudos to Reichs for making a point of mentioning public domain books and materials. Just how much literature and art is the property of the public domain, hence owned by all of us, is still not known by many people. Literally a treasure trove of classics and academia to be read.

Tempe is drawn into the case of a young missing girl, except according to her parents she isn’t missing, she is merely gone. An amateur sleuth has drawn her attention to a possible connection to the girl and the bones of an unidentified body.

Reichs has also given due attention to so-called websleuths. The groups of people, who dedicate their time to solving cold cases and matching unidentified bodies with names of victims. Whole blogs, websites and forums are dedicated to this particular past-time.

An understandable obsession, but unfortunately it can be a very competitive one. Some of these websleuths are more interested in recognition and fame, a subject Reichs also hits upon in this story, and the ones who inadvertently cause harm to real cases.

Speaking in Bones features a revitalised Tempe, a softer Ryan and a bunch of crazy religious zealots. Oh, and bones, many bones. Once again a great read by Reichs.

Buy Speaking in Bones at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Try this short story Swamp Bones by Kathy Reichs.

Read The Bone CollectionThe Swamp BonesBones Never Lie,  Bones in her Pocket or Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs.

Read ExposureSwipe or Code by Kathy and Brendan Reichs.

Read Two Nights by Kathy Reichs.

Dark Paradise by Angie Sandro

Dark Paradise

You can’t fault Sandro for her creativity and enthusiasm. Unfortunately instead of it being fast paced I found it hectic and unclear at times. Sandro needs to control her enthusiasm and be clearer, because at the moment it is to the detriment of the story.

Dark Paradise is New Adult, which is essentially a YA with quite a bit of the horizontal tango thrown in for free. I thought it was on the younger end of YA, despite the occasional fondle. The characters are very teeny, flighty and immature. The plot has a lot of potential, but is weighed down by the hectic and often slightly chaotic writing. However Sandro does have a lot of good ideas, and as a reader I can see the potential, because she has an abundance of creativity.

Mala comes from a long line of voodoo, hoodoo witches, but she is unaware of her hidden talents. Those talents start to manifest in the form of visitations by ghosts, when she finds the body of a young girl in the middle of the bayou. She finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. Accused by the town, while the ghost of the girl demands answers from Mala at the same time.

As if that wasn’t difficult enough her romantic interests are drawn in two separate directions at the same time. There is cute police officer and the temperamental brother of the victim.

Overall this is an ambitious urban fantasy with plenty of potential for development and improvement.

Time of Death by Mark Billingham

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Tom and Helen, well what can I say, they aren’t exactly a cosy couple are they? I don’t think it is just the whole uncomfortable situation they find themselves in either. Her past certainly sits between them like a great big elephant in the room.

It was almost as if Billingham wanted to lay a stronger emphasis on the relationships between his characters, as opposed to placing all the cards on the crime element this time.

I have to say I did not understand why Helen insists on staying with a woman, who clearly harbours great resentment about their mutual past. It is uncomfortable, sometimes creepy and it seems really strange that two grown adults would subject themselves to that level of discomfort.

Personally I would have liked to have seen Helen’s sub-plot developed a lot more. The reader doesn’t understand the significance of her return to the friend and the town until the very end. It is such an explosive secret that it certainly deserved more attention.

In this 13th Thorne story the reader gets to see a deeper level when it comes to Helen and Tom, perhaps this actually gives a better insight into her thought processes and actions. Meanwhile Thorne is true to his stubborn detective style, he listens to his gut and not to the gossipy quick assumptions of the local population and police.

I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss, courtesy of the publisher.