Monday, January 30, 2017

Shtum - Jem Lester

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: 26/01/17

Publisher: Orion Publishing

ISBN: 978-1409162988

Format: Paperback, 123pp

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Drama

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Dysfunction. Family. Struggle. Fatherhood.

First Impressions
Having just read another novel based around autism (A Boy Made Of Blocks - Keith Stuart) I was ready to jump into another quite soon. I find it is really important for individuals and parents to raise their own awareness of Autism. Honesty is key in the subject of Autism and Jem Lester definitely gives us an open account in Shtum. A novelisation of his own family's struggle to obtain a suitable education for his own son, Shtum hits hard and goes a long way to showing us what those affected by ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) face day to day.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Keeper of Lost Things - Ruth Hogan

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: 26/01/17

Publisher: Two Roads (John Murray Press)

ISBN: 978-1473635463

Format: Hardback, 309pp

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Summed up in a few words
Mending. Discovery. Unity. Faith. Sentimentality.

First Impressions
I requested this book via Bookbridgr and after getting caught up in the usual constant book-blogging madness, I forgot all about it. Then it showed up on my doorstep and at first I was confused, then intrigued and after reading the first couple of pages... I was hooked. TKoLT is a gorgeous book, the premise is inviting and the writing is elegant, emotional and brilliant. So many stories all tightly weaved into a meaningful plot with a strong message. Two Roads only publish a handful of books every year and they are off to a cracking start.

Book Synopsis
Meet the 'Keeper of Lost Things'. Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half of his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the 'Keeper of Lost Things' have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters.

With an unforgettable cast of characters that includes young girls with special powers, handsome gardeners, irritable ghosts and an array of irresistible four legged friends, The Keeper of Lost Things is a debut novel of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that will leave you bereft one you've finished reading. (Official Synopsis)

My Thoughts
I was looking for a peaceful, inspiring and memorable read and that is exactly what I was rewarded with after finishing The Keeper of Lost Things. This is a story about broken promises, redemption and moving on from the past. Ruth Hogan is a natural story teller and her ability really shines in this novel. A well crafted plot that is centred around writing, and what stories mean to us, made this a success. I was constantly moved by both the characters and the meaningfulness behind their choices and actions. 

Anthony Peardew is a brilliant character, his life and presence builds the foundation for this book. RH draws the reader in with a potent and romantic backstory. Anthony broke a promise to his love all those years ago and has been collecting lost things ever since to hopefully return at least one item to its owner. His hope is to appease the spirit of his long lost love and make peace with her so they can join each other in the afterlife. Each item has a story which is shared with the reader during the course of the story and makes for great opportunities for additional depth and enjoyment. 

After his death Anthony leaves his life and mission in the trusted hands of Laura. Laura is lost too and her backstory is not a happy one. Trying to escape her past and the scars it left on her, she takes this journey on whole-heartedly. Armed with Sunshine and Freddy the gardener, she sets out to return the lost items and help put Anthony to rest.

There is a sub-plot that is weaved through the main arc, and this follows Eunice who has just got a job working in a publishing house. This is a great addition to the novel, with completely separate themes and messages that resonate with many different readers. The sub-plot is connected to the main plot in several small ways and I felt it really added another dimension to the overall feel of the book.

RH uses a lot of different tones, themes and personalities to make this book standout. Personally I have never read anything like this, it is a unique piece in my opinion as it doesn't feel connected to any books I have read in the genre. Much like The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street it has its own persona and feel. The Keeper of Lost Things is heart-warming but it is also upsetting and painful at times. I found myself shedding many tears over what these characters face, their conflicts and their trust in others. I was truly inspired.

The characters are well developed, believable and most importantly enjoyable. Many different shapes and shades of people, all united over one common goal. RH side stepped cliche and worked hard to create an emotional and relevant plot which works tremendously and it really lit up my day. I have been reading a lot of darker material recently and this just lifted me up, shook me a little and made me smile.

Pick Up The Keeper of Lost Things here: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads 

About the Author: (Ruth Hogan's Official Bio) I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford: my sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me. As a child I read everything I could lay my hands on: The Moomintrolls, A Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets and gravestones. I was mad about dogs and horses, but didn't like daddy-long-legs or sugar in my tea.

I studied English and Drama at Goldsmiths College which was brilliant, but then I came home and got a 'proper' job. I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (I was definitely a square peg in a round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage) before a car accident left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously. It was going well, but then in 2012 I got cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing and the eventual result was The Keeper of Lost Things.

I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering partner (who has very recently become my husband - so I can't be that bad!) I am a magpie, always collecting treasures, and a huge John Betjeman fan. My favourite word is 'antimacassar' and I still like reading gravestones.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Burned and Broken - Mark Hardie

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: 04/05/17

Publisher: Sphere, Little Brown

ISBN: 978-0751562088

Format: Paperback, 364pp

Genre: British Crime

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Mental Illness. High-stakes investigation.

First Impressions
Little, Brown and their imprints are so good to me here at Always Trust In Books. Involving me in lots of fun blog tours and promotional events, so thank you! Burned and Broken is the debut novel from Mark Hardie. The intense plot lines, troubled characters, and vivid, rapid fire writing sets the scene for a very successful career for Hardie in the British crime genre. Burned and Broken was released last year and is about to be released as a paperback later on this year. In the paperback edition, along with the novel, you get an enlightening Q&A with Hardie and a sneak peek at the next instalment of the series.

Book Synopsis
A vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend. The charred body of a policeman - currently the subject of an internal investigation - is found in the burnt-out shell of his car on the Southend seafront.

To DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell of the Essex Police Major Investigation Team, the two events seem unconnected. But as they dig deeper into their colleague's murder, dark secrets begin to emerge. Can Pearson and Russell solve both cases, before more lives are destroyed?

My Thoughts
Burned and Broken is an impressive and absorbing debut from author Mark Hardie. With a decent, developed and well paced plot; populated with plenty of damaged souls. Pearson and Russell are investigating the death of a colleague. The officer in question was no saint, with erratic behaviour leading up to his death, a pending investigation into his current work and previous allegations of assault. Following the investigation into his flaming demise, Pearson must follow leads that seemingly take him nowhere and just end up with more death. Russell used to be partners with the deceased and her image of the man she knew is fractured and skewed. Did she make the right decision when she lied for him?

As well as the police investigation, Burned and Broken follows Donna Freeman, a young girl who has recently lost her best friend. Alicia was found dead under a bridge in what seemed like a successful suicide attempt. An investigation was made into her death but was soon put aside when no further leads came up. Donna is lost without her friend and can't deal with the fact that everyone has forgotten about her so soon. Donna is on a mission to make them remember.

Mark Hardie commands people's attention with his breakneck, succinct writing. Using short and explosive sentences that stick out to the reader. Burned and Broken sits comfortably in the British crime genre, with all the darker tones and grey atmosphere that comes with it. The edge that MH has with this novel is the disturbing psychological themes that manifest within Donna over the course of the book. I found that to be one of the main elements that drew me in. Donna is a tortured soul and without her tether, she cannot control her actions. I also really enjoyed the fact that all the main characters are fully developed. They each have their own lives, problems and distractions. I dislike it when authors have their characters solely focused on the key plot.

My list of dislikes for Burned and Broken is very slim. In my opinion it crosses a few lines with some of the content. Several inappropriate themes and aspects litter the background of the story, but they are necessary to add the grittier feel to MH's writing so for the most part they are important for the overall experience of the plot. I think this novel is a great addition to the genre, it hits all the right notes. MH has not broken any boundaries but he has set a solid series of books that will take him far.

For me the stand out aspect of Burned and Broken are the characters. I mentioned before that I like diverse and conflicted characters and you certainly get plenty of those here. Pearson is trapped in his life and is uncertain about his marriage, family and the state of his health. Russell faces ethical problems, she lied for a colleague, and is struggling to maintain her integrity in light of new information about this person. Donna is unhinged and is desperate to feel connected to Alicia again. She is traumatised, lost and her grip on reality is slipping fast.

I recommend this book to all crime lovers, it captures the tone and atmosphere that is necessary for successful crime fiction. Readers are left scratching their heads as the plot thickens and you can no longer see the bigger picture. You are sucked into the various conflicts and interactions that each character is facing, trying to fight against the tide of pain and frustration. Burned and Broken doesn't add anything new to the genre, but it is well executed. It contains all the necessary ingredients to be disturbing, entertaining and keep you invested for the coming sequels.

Thank you for checking out my thoughts on Burned and Broken, I rely on all my readers here on Always Trust In Books and I appreciate all the support given to me by yourselves and the publishers who involve me in blog tours like this one. Thank you to you all. 

Pick up a copy of Burned and Broken here (Kindle Edition): Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads (The paperback edition is released in May 2017) 

About the Author: Mark Hardie was born in 1960 in Bow, East London. He began writing fulltime after completely losing his eyesight in 2002. He has completed a creative writing course and an advanced creative writing course at the Open University, both with distinction. Mark lives with his wife Debbie in Southend-on-Sea. Burned and Broken is his debut novel. The second instalment of the series, Truly Evil, is set to be released in August 2017.

Thank you again for visiting Always Trust In Books for my stop on the Burned and Broken Blog Tour. Please visit some of the other amazing blogs that are helping to promote the book with me, here are some links:

The Bookish Reader 
It Takes A Woman
Live To Read, Read To Live
Heather Reviews
Kelly's Book Corner
Grab This Book
The Book Magnet
Books, Tea and All Things Me

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Where Dead Men Meet - Mark Mills

Sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher: Headline

Copyright: Mark Mills, 2016

ISBN: 978-0755392353

Format: Hardback, 435pp

Genre: Thriller/Historical Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Revenge. Family. War. Travel. Identity.

First Impressions
I was enthralled with this book, so many great elements came together here to create a solid and enjoyable read. A war strained Europe setting. A complex main character who is on a mission to find his real identity. A collection of great secondary characters who either help or hinder his progress. Fearless killers. Family. Revenge and redemption. Not a ground-breaking book, just a well written and engaging historical fiction piece that draws in the reader till the very end.

Book Synopsis
1912. A baby is left on the steps of a nunnery.

1937. Luke Hamilton - an air intelligence officer at the British Embassy in Paris - finds himself the target of an assassination attempt. A clear case of mistaken identity, or so it first appears. As Luke is hunted from Paris, through Germany and to Italy, moving across a continent sliding towards war, he comes to learn that the answers lie deep in a past that predates his abandonment as a baby on the steps of an orphanage. And the question he can't answer is why they have come for him now, having spared him twenty-five years ago?

Set against a vivid backdrop of Europe on the cusp of the Second World War, Where Dead Men Meet is a return to the superior intelligence thriller from the highly acclaimed author of the bestselling The Savage Garden.

My Thoughts
Where Dead Men Meet is quite a bit more thriller than it is historical fiction. Though the book is filled with historical context which concerns the Second World War and the various horrors and complications the war brought to Europe, the main event here is Luke Hamilton. Hamilton seems to attract danger/threats with ease and throughout the entirety of the plot he finds himself the target of many different killers. Hamilton's troubles extend far beyond his birth and it is quite the journey across Europe to discover the truth.

After Hamilton is the target of several assassination attempts in Paris, he is saved by one of his would be assassins and sent to Germany for protection. Unfortunately the individual who is tasked with Hamilton's protection has unfinished business with the assassin and believe Hamilton to be the enemy. From there the plot is rife with danger, threats, death and uncertainty as Hamilton struggles to obtain a grasp on his steadily crumbling life. Where Dead Men Meet takes the reader across war strung Europe, in and out of cross-hairs and down memory lane for one of the best WW2 thrillers I have read this year. 

Mark Mills has a quality and gripping writing style that focuses on character interactions and reactions. He is excellent at building up and breaking down his characters and showing the reader that all is not what it originally seems. MM's writing is nothing groundbreaking but that said, I was gripped, invested and impressed with the plot development and how he organised and inserted his characters into the overall story line. I appreciated the fact that Hamilton had other smaller story-lines and episodes threaded though the plot to complement his presence and join the large and bold story arc together. 

There are two distinct atmospheres included, the smaller more immediate tone is that of anger/revenge and the larger (national) tone was fear and uncertainty for the future. Hamilton is rapidly losing the life he once had and when he goes to re-assemble the pieces, his life looks completely different and I appreciated the way that Hamilton dealt with that scenario. There are many different themes included in this piece from family, war and revenge to murder, survival and identity. Mark Mills got a nice balance of action, thrills and detail along with character development. Hamilton is complex and he evolves nicely over the course of the book.

The characters in Where Dead Men Meet are what kept me invested, so if you don't really like character driven stories then this won't be for you. Hamilton is not going down without a fight. Pippi is grieving and wants justice in any form. Borodin has had a change of heart and wants to make up for a life of wrongs. Each of them had me hooked and along with the fast paced plot, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book to both thriller and historical fiction lovers. It doesn't re-write the book on WW2 fiction, but it sits nicely within the ranks of other books in the genre. Thank you to Headline for sending me a copy for review. Mark Mills is a talented and gripping author and I look forward to reading more of his material. If you want a story that is complex, entertaining and engaging then please pick up Where Dead Men Meet and tell me what you thought.

Pick up a copy of the book here: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads 

About the Author: Mark Mills graduated from Cambridge University in 1986. He has lived in both Italy and France, and has written for the screen. His first novel, The Whaleboat House, won the 2004 Crime Writers' Association Award for Best Novel by a debut author. His second, The Savage Garden, was a Richard and Judy Summer Read and a no. 1 bestseller. Under the name Mark B. Mills, he has written the comic novel, Waiting for Doggo. He lives near Oxford with his wife and two children. (Official Bio)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Browse - Henry Hitchings

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: 6/10/16

Publisher: Pushkin Press

ISBN: 978-1782272120

Format: Hardback, 249p

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Summed up in a few words
Nostalgia. Passion. Sentiment. Unity. Books

First Impressions
Browse is the first book from Pushkin Press I have had the fortune to read. Thank you to Perry for sending me this review copy. I am a gargantuan fan of books about books as some people may know. I am an even bigger fan of GREAT books about books, such as The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell or The Bookshop That Floated Away by Sarah Henshaw. Browse has definitely made my top 5 as it displays a passion for books that involves so many people from different walks of life. All the authors that contributed to this collection are all united by an unwavering passion for books that all started in bookshops from all around the world.

Book Synopsis
A cabinet of curiosities, a time machine, a treasure trove - we love bookshops because they possess a unique kind of magic. In Browse Henry Hitchings asks fifteen writers from around the world to consider the bookshops that have shaped them; each conjures a specific time and place.

Ali Smith chronicles the secrets and personal stories hidden with pages of secondhand books; Alaa Al Aswany tells of the Cairo bookshop where revolutionaries gathered during the 2011 uprisings; Elif Shafak evokes the bookstores of Istanbul, their chaos and diversity, their aromas of tobacco and coffee. Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor recalls the quandary of choosing just one book at a favourite childhood store in Nairobi, while Iain Sinclair shares his grief on witnessing a beloved old haunt close down. Others explore bookshops they have stumbled upon, adored and become addicted to, from Delhi to Bogota.

These inquisitive, enchanting pieces are a collective celebration of bookshops - for anyone who has ever fallen under their spell.

My Thoughts
Books that capture the magic of both picking up a new book or stumbling upon an amazing new bookshop you never knew existed are probably my favourite kind of book. One aspect of being a reader that unites everyone is what inspired them to learn to read. The places and individuals that encouraged them to fall in love with books and the stories within. Browse captures this feeling and substance perfectly.

Each of the contributors to this collection have singled out a bookshop that was significant in both their life and career. Browse is a thoughtful, pensive and enticing trip through the world's drastically different bookshop experiences and how they shaped the author's and reader's of today. Each story is filled with wonder, nostalgia and influence. Moments like finding old train tickets in used books, working in bookshops, finding secret book sections and the frustration of only picking one book at a time. Each author manages to bring something new to the subject.

Fortunately it does not get repetitive, with every author having a unique perspective. The most bizarre being Sasa Stanisic who writes about books in a jarring and strange style. Talking as if books were a substance, a drug that can influence your life and change your mind about how the world works. Browse is brimming with inspiration, optimism, pessimism, fear and happiness. Every bookshop is hiding wonderful secrets, secrets that cannot be found on book websites. It is up to us to go out, find them, cherish them and pass them on to those we love.

I will always seek out book related books as I think the subject empowers readers, excites us and leads us to place we might not have considered before. Browse will suit any reader, I recommend Browse to everyone who finds bookshops fascinating, important and significant. Thank you for reading this review, I advise you to pick up this book as soon as you can. I hope you enjoy it and please tell me what you thought.

Pick up a copy of Browse here: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads 

About the Editor: Henry Hitchings is an award winning writer, reviewer and critic. He has written for the Guardian, TLS, Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, and is currently the Evening Standard's theatre critic. He is the author of several acclaimed books on language, literature and culture, including Dr Johnson's Dictionary and The Language Wars. In 2008, his book The Secret Life of Words won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award, and in 2009 he was shortlisted for the title of Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Dry - Jane Harper

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher: Little, Brown 2016

Release Date: 12/01/17

Copyright: Jane Harper, 2016

ISBN: 978-1408708170

Format: Hardback, 342pp

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Murder. History. Family. Secrets.

First Impressions
Thank you to Little, Brown for including Always Trust In Books on the blog tour for The Dry by Jane Harper. There are so many great blogs pitching in to give this book all the attention it deserves, so please go and check out as many as you can. The Dry is Jane Harper's debut novel, it fuses together aspects of murder mystery, small town politics and horrific human behaviour. The Dry caught my attention from the get-go and I ended up reading it in (almost) one sitting. JH uses a mixture of expertly crafted plot reveals and emotional/personal character interactions to invite the reader to become part of Aaron Falk's hunt for the truth.

Book Synopsis
Australia is in the grip of its worst drought in a century, and it hasn't rained in the small country town of Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke's death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past bubble to the surface as he investigates the truth of his friend's crime.

The Dry is a story of desperation, resolution and small-town prejudice, played out against the blistering extremes of life in a ravaged land. (Official Synopsis)

My Thoughts
The tension in Kiewarra, Australia is at breaking point even before Aaron Falk sets foot back into his home town to attend the funeral of a close childhood friend. The never-ending drought that continues to torture the town and a horrific triple murder-suicide involving the Hadler family has everyone scared, angry and confused. Aaron Falk's presence in the town only escalates the intensity as he brings back memories of the unforgettable death of a teenage girl that drove Aaron and his father out of their home and all the way to Melbourne 20 years ago.

Luke Hadler was Aaron's best-friend growing up and being back shakes Aaron to the core. After the funeral and before Aaron can leave town, Luke's father gets in contact and begs him to help with the investigation into the deaths of the Hadler's. Gerry Halder does not believe that his son is capable of murdering his family but with the town's dark past still looming over them all, he can't be sure.

The Dry is brimming with secrets, mystery and madness. Aaron agrees to look into the circumstances surround Luke's death and it doesn't take long to see that things don't add up. Aaron has to confront the past, the town, the heat and the fear knotting in his gut. The town want him gone, but as everyone has secrets, he owes it to Luke to find out what really happened that day on the Hadler farm.

Jane Harper has written a fantastic debut and I was both impressed with The Dry and slightly appalled by it. A combination of outstanding plot developments/reveals, a gripping story and an addictive writing style kept me reading all the way through to the end in no time. The reason I was appalled was the overly graphic nature of some of the content. I felt that one death in particular was implied enough throughout the duration of the book and did not need to be described out-right. 

The Dry keeps the reader invested by leading them into a labyrinth of secrets, misinformation and community resolve; revealing the bigger picture through broken memories, investigations and interrogation. The characters and the setting are one and the same. Everything that happens in Kiewarra happens to its people and they are not a forgiving bunch. News travels fast, people change their stories and those who have been hurt never forget.

Aaron is a strong lead character, he doesn't want to be in town and is definitely not keen to re-open his past with Luke or investigate the death of his family. This leaves him in a difficult position, Aaron owes it to the people in town who protected him during the fallout over Ellie's death all those years ago to find out if Luke Hadler was truly able to murder those that he loves. Unfortunately, even if he wants to return to that time in his life, there are people in town who will go to great lengths to prevent him from doing so.

I was captivated by this book, mesmerised by how far a community will go to move on from tragedy and what individuals will do to protect themselves from harm. If Jane Harper can keep up the momentum that she has established here, she'll have an exciting and successful career. There are elements of mystery, crime, horror and thriller in The Dry, it caters to a wide array of readers and I recommend it to all those reading this post!

Overall, The Dry was a strong piece of fiction, there is mystery, terror and a solid main character who is fighting himself, the community and the dead for answers to what happened to the victims of the tragedies that occurred in scorched fields of Kiewarra. There is heavy graphic content so beware, but it is necessary to a certain degree to complete the story and really shock the reader. Thank you for reading this review as part of the January blog tour for The Dry or just checking it out in general.

Pick up a copy of The Dry on the 12th of January here: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads 

About the Author: Jane Harper has worked as a print journalist for thirteen years in Australia and the UK. She live in Melbourne and currently writes for Herald Sun. Jane is originally from the UK and moved to Australia in 2008 where she won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015. The Dry is her first novel.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Dust and Desire - Conrad Williams

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher: Titan Books

Copyright: Conrad Williams, 2015

ISBN: 978-1783295630

Format: Paperback, 368pp

Genre: Crime

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Punishment. Loss. Grit. Desire. Payback.

First Impressions
Titan Books are consistently publishing epic books and I am so grateful that they are happy to send some my way for review. Thank you to Lydia for sending me the entire Joel Sorrell trilogy for review. Dust and Desire is the first book in a off-the-walls series that tortures Joel Sorrell to his very limits. I have not read any of Conrad Williams' books before but I am definitely a fan (although he is an punishing and unforgiving author). This is heavy duty British crime/noir fiction that does not let up until the very end, I certainly enjoyed Dust and Desire and the other instalments but I need to recuperate now with some upbeat, happy and fun books for a while.  

Book Synopsis
An extraordinary killer has arrived in London, hell-bent on destruction.

Joel Sorrell, a bruised, bad-mouthed PI , is a sucker for missing persons cases. And not just because he's searching for his daughter, who vanished five years after his wife was murdered. Joel feels a kinship with the desperate and the damned. He feels, somehow, responsible. So when the mysterious Kara Geenan begs him to find her missing brother, Joel agrees. Then an attempt is made on his life, and Kara vanishes... A viscous serial killer is on the hunt, and as those close to Joel are sucked into his nightmare, he suspects that answers may lie in his own hellish past. 

My Thoughts
Conrad Williams is a master of crafting complex characters (with so much depth and backstory) and brutal, punishing plot design. Joel Sorrell is damaged beyond all repair, during a brief stint in the police force, Joel's wife is savagely murdered. Rebecca's death causes a rift to form between Joel and his daughter Sarah that festers until Sarah (aged 13) cannot stand it anymore and runs away. Dust and Desire is set several years from this point, Joel has become a private investigator, he is constantly searching for Sarah while picking up work where ever he can. 

Even after Joel's relentless punishment, he still retains the grit, aggression and attitude necessary in his line of work. After being recruited to investigate a missing person, Joel finds himself facing multiple murder attempts. The case quickly goes cold and Joel starts to unravel a bigger scheme that has been brewing for nearly 2 decades. CW's writing style consists of a blend of harshness, humour and humanity. 

Joel Sorrell is probably my favourite protagonist of 2016, he is so complex, walking the tightrope between insanity and family instinct. CW consistently develops Joel, putting him through so much without ever letting up. I spent so much time with Joel, feeling his pain, fury and desperation to find Sarah, constantly deflecting strike after strike. Luckily Joel has a quality bunch of associates he can lean on, and one not so helpful in the form of Ian Mawker. Their anti-friendship kept me entertained throughout the grimmer parts of this book, forever antagonising each other and fighting over leads.

I will quickly mention the villain that CW has expertly forged throughout the duration of the book. Wire or The Four-Year Old is the hellion in Dust and Desire, I was certainly impressed at the length that CW went to involve and develop him over the course of the plot, but I am not really a fan of the whole 'bad guy in the shadows' concept so I was not overly keen on the ending after all the hard work put in to make him an impressive adversary.

Dust and Desire is a tough book, not for the faint hearted. I recommend this book to those who enjoy the rougher side of the crime genre and are readers who can happily invest themselves in a series of books. Grating and caustic themes with an atmosphere that change at any moment makes Dust and Desire so unpredictable and that is what I most enjoyed about it. CW is not overly descriptive or obvious, changing the pace and the tone of a scenario on the spot whenever it suites him. 

I am keen to continue on with the Joel Sorrell story, though I have a feeling that it won't get any easier to digest anytime soon. CW is predominately a horror writer and it definitely bleeds through onto the pages of Dust and Desire. Check it out and tell me what you think!! Thank you for reading this review and I will be reviewing part two 'Sonata of the Dead' very soon.

Pick up Dust and Desire here: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads #

About the Author: Conrad Williams is the author of nine novels, four novellas and a collection of short stories. One was the winner of the August Derleth award for Best Novel (British Fantasy Awards 2010) while The Unblemished won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007 (he beat the shortlisted Stephen King on both occasions). He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 1993, and another British Fantasy Award for Best Novella (The Scalding Rooms) in 2008.  His first crime novel, and the first Joel Sorrell thriller, Dust and Desire , was published in 2015, with Sonata of the Dead following in 2016. He lives in Manchester.

Sonata of the Dead - Conrad Williams

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher: Titan Books

Copyright: Conrad Williams, 2016

ISBN: 978-1783295654

Format: Paperback, 343pp

Genre: Crime

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Family. Writing. Pain. Pursuit. Adrenaline.

First Impressions
Conrad Williams is on a mission to bring Joel to his knees in the second instalment of this punishing and frenzied series. Joel has been given hope and that is a dangerous thing to have in his situation. CW has taken this series to a new level using bold and interesting plot ideas, characters and elements of horror. If you enjoyed Dust and Desire then you will most certainly get on well with Sonata of the Dead. CW takes the well worn dynamic of cop turned PI scenario and contorts/brutalizes it into a different kind of British crime/noir novel series.

Book Synopsis
Even as he recovers from his near fatal encounter with an unhinged killer, PI Joel Sorrell cannot forget his search for Sarah. He receives a tip that photographs of her have been found at a crime scene, where a young man whom Sarah knew when they were children has been horribly dismembered. Finding a link between the victim and an underground writers' group, Joel follows the thread, but every lead ends in another body. Someone is targeting the group, and it is only a matter of time before Joel's daughter is run to ground.

My Thoughts
Sonata of the Dead builds on what Dust and Desire had achieved but moved the focus towards the chase of the villain and added more in-depth horror elements. Joel has been given hope in the search for Sarah in more ways than one and it is tearing him to pieces. When a school friend of Sarah's is brutally murdered by The Hack, Joel receives news that photos of Sarah have been recovered at the crime scene.

Tracking Sarah and her involvement with the recently deceased, Joel finds himself with a big new lead in the search. Sarah is a possible member of an underground, high stakes, adrenaline seeking writers group. Joel sets out to mine this huge find of all the information he can. Unfortunately he is not the only one who wants a word with them and as the murders continue, Joel is seeing his chances slipping into the abyss. Joel is desperate and has nothing to lose which in this scenario is a good cocktail for success.

Towards the beginning of the book when I found out the main plot was centred around a creative writing group; I was half disappointed and half amused. I was quickly hushed by the unrelenting chaos surrounding the group and as the plot developed I found myself really enjoying the creative writing aspect. It broke up the text and skewed the facts quite well, which helped cultivate the unpredictable tone that CW crafts so well.

The character development in the Joel Sorrell series so far has been hit and miss. I find that CW seems to craft characters to meet the needs of Joel instead of him or others adapting themselves to the situation. This is sort of a complaint as CW's books are seemingly over-populated but CW is an outstanding character builder and this means we consistently get interesting, development and unique characters throughout which makes for great reading.

Ian Mawker is back and the dynamic between him and Sorrell is brilliant as always, they hate each other with a passion, but their regard for their work and finding Sarah continuously drag them together. The main villain in Sonata of the Dead is again hidden in the shadows and for me personally, this is frustrating. I prefer protagonist/antagonist interaction instead of both characters working opposite to each other, so I have to mark down for that. 

CW's work is rooted in two major themes, meaningful character interactions and a punishing, honorific and desperate attempt for reunion. The tone of Sonata of the Dead elevates to a frantic, destructive and seemingly futile level. Joel is inches away from Sarah at all times but can he get to her before The Hack can?

Overall, I have been blown away by elements of this series so far, but I have also been frustrated by them. I do recommend this book to crime/noir/Conrad Williams fans and I can guarantee you will be thrilled by all the chaos that CW packs into every page. I have given this book 4/5 as CW is consistently awesome and I am looking forward to seeing where he will eventually take this series.

Pick up a copy of Sonata of the Dead here: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads

About the Author: Conrad Williams is the author of nine novels, four novellas and a collection of short stories. One was the winner of the August Derleth award for Best Novel (British Fantasy Awards 2010) while The Unblemished won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007 (he beat the shortlisted Stephen King on both occasions). He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 1993, and another British Fantasy Award for Best Novella (The Scalding Rooms) in 2008.  His first crime novel, and the first Joel Sorrell thriller, Dust and Desire , was published in 2015, with Sonata of the Dead following in 2016. He lives in Manchester.

Hell is Empty - Conrad Williams

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher: Titan Books

Copyright: Conrad Williams, 2016

ISBN: 978-1783295678

Format: Paperback, 295pp

Genre: Crime

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Claustrophobia. Dysfunction. Escape. Strength. Finality.

First Impressions
I knew Conrad Williams was saving the best (or in this case 'most brutal') for last but ouch. After finishing Hell is Empty, I was relieved that the carnage was over and done with. Joel Sorrell has been dragged through a seemingly never-ending nightmare of murder, chaos and desperation. This last instalment turns the situation on its head to a certain degree, pulling Joel back into reality and putting the fury back into his search for Sarah. Stepping into CW's criminal fiction has been an striking and stimulating experience and though I look forward to checking out his other work; I need to read some happy, positive fiction first.

Book Synopsis
Private Investigator Joel Sorrell is exhausted and drinking hard, sustained only by a hopeful yet baffling note from his estranged daughter, Sarah. An SOS from an old flame whose child has been kidnapped gives him a welcomed distraction, but the investigation raises more questions than answers. Then comes the news that his greatest enemy has escaped from prison with a score to settle. With Joel's life and the remnants of his family at stake, any chance of peace depends on the silencing of his nemesis once and for all. But an unexpected obstacle stands in his way...

My Thoughts
Joel Sorrell is a mess, recovering from another near-death event and missing his opportunity to reunite with his daughter. Sorrell goes rogue, locking himself in his apartment and drinking himself into oblivion. The individuals who care for his well being have other plans and set to drag him from his pit and back into his search for Sarah (even Ian Mawker can't stand  by and watch him rot!). Overcoming his sudden on-set agoraphobia and fear that his life is constantly in danger, Sorrell regains his fire and sets out to bring Sarah home.

An old friend comes to Sorrell for help, her son has been kidnapped and the suspect is making her jump through rings to get him back. Their journey takes them all over the country and after the friend disappears suddenly Joel believes the whole venture to be a ruse; he was right about that. The sadistic murderer who killed his wife has escaped with several of his closest inmates and they waste no time hunting Sorrell down.

Hell is Empty is my favourite instalment of this series, it contains all the elements that CW has been building up throughout the trilogy; but it ramps up the unpredictability to another level. Sorrell 'rises from the ashes' with the help of those who are invested in him, and even some who aren't but can't stand by to see his flame go out. The adrenaline factor in Hell is Empty is off the hook, with violent murderers trying to end Sorrell anyway they can, from car chases and bombings to shoot outs and close quarters combat.

Sorrell's sanity is again tested as his worst nightmare is out free roaming the world once more and Graeme Tann is not going to stop until Sorrell is in the ground. For the most part, Joel was much stronger both physically and mentally for duration of this book, though his conversations with his dead wife in his head are both strange and emotional. The character interaction and relationships in this series sets it apart from all the other British crime pieces I have read this year. CW is so focused on emotion, humanity and connection which pulls the reader in and encourages them to invest in JS and his search for Sarah.

For me personally, the biggest let down of this series is the 'villain in the shadows' aspect. It works so well in this book but I could have done with more interaction between Sorrell and those who want him dead so it can add some additional depth to the meaning behind the attacks. That said, Hell is Empty is brimming with Sorrell-vs-villain action throughout, with unhinged killers and even some professionals pursuing him with one goal; his painful death. My other complaint is that Graeme Tann is under-developed and I thought he had so much potential for a main villain, but overall he was not used enough in my opinion.

CW's has crafted such a merciless and engaging series and I certainly recommend it to any British/crime/noir fiction lovers. A solid, well organised and executed plot split across three absorbing novels. I can breath now that it is all over, the carnage has come to an end and I can go back to non-fiction and hide there for a while so I can recover. Hopefully CW dives back into the British crime genre again soon as I will be ready for some more unrelenting badassery very soon.

Pick up Hell is Empty here: Amazon UK/Amazon UK/Goodreads

About the Author: Conrad Williams is the author of nine novels, four novellas and a collection of short stories. One was the winner of the August Derleth award for Best Novel (British Fantasy Awards 2010) while The Unblemished won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007 (he beat the shortlisted Stephen King on both occasions). He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 1993, and another British Fantasy Award for Best Novella (The Scalding Rooms) in 2008.  His first crime novel, and the first Joel Sorrell thriller, Dust and Desire , was published in 2015, with Sonata of the Dead following in 2016. He lives in Manchester.