February 2013

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Thrillers Of The Month – February 2013

This month featuring

- The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall, published by Legend Press

- The Missing by Karl Vadaszffy, published by Peach Publishing

- Cast-Iron Men by Dominic Kearney, published by Garvey Publishing

- Sutton by J. R. Moehringer, published by Blue Door

- The Pyramid Legacy by Clive Eaton

- Sea Of Crises by Marty Steere, published by Penfield Publications

We are always open to new submissions from authors/publishers – click here

   The Woman Before Me By Ruth Dugdall
Review by Helen Hayes

Rose Wilks’ life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care.  There she meets Emma who has all that Rose lacks and desires. A loving husband, a beautiful home – and a healthy baby boy, Luke. So far so familiar, but then tragedy strikes and Luke dies in a house fire and Rose, who admits she was in the house on the night of the fire is the only suspect.
This is the story of two women: Rose, who is in prison having been found guilty of Luke’s death but refusing to admit responsibility; and Cate her probation officer, herself a new mother who has just returned to work after a period of depression and who must decide if Rose is be released on parole. With Rose just weeks away from freedom after serving four years in prison; Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for Luke’s death, or whether she remains a threat to society. As Cate is drawn further in to Rose’s story, she begins to doubt her own judgement.
Rose’s past is unravelled in a long letter written in her journal and therefore never sent, to her partner Jason during her years in prison. The reader flits from sympathy between the claustrophobia of prison and Rose’s lonely loveless childhood in a Suffolk seaside town. The pace never flags and I was second-guessing the twists all the way though.

Rating: This story isn’t a typical psychological or fast-paced thriller; it is a thought provoking page-turner and a story about love and obsession.

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Publisher: Legend Press

   The Missing by Karl Vadaszffy
Review by Paul Morris

Starts off at a blistering pace with a man looking for his girlfriend who disappeared at a service station. The main character is literally left holding the cold coffee, dazed and confused. The police think he’s seriously nuts when no trace of the woman he was planning to marry can be found. Turning amateur sleuth, he takes to the streets to find his missing girlfriend.
His only ally in the hunt for the missing girl is a jaded woman police detective who believes his story. Together, they go in pursuit of a deadly killer.
A tense and well-written book that is entertaining. The only criticism would be a need for better characterisation which would give the reader more empathy with the two key characters. And in some places the violence seems a little too gratuitous.

Rating: A tense and well-written book.

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Author’s Website: www.karlvad.com

Publisher: Peach Publishing

   Cast-Iron Men by Dominic Kearney
TAKE ME TO ‘ANOTHER PLACE’ – Review by Sophie Scott

Liverpool is the City of Culture, and nothing is going to tarnish its sheen – certainly not the murder of a prostitute on prime development land.
The text resonates with the misogyny of daily language, daily lives. From the off, it’s nasty and visceral, dripping with unfortunate accuracy. Men, money, and power operate the controls in a violent world of intimidation, where truth is anathema to ambition. But Kearney is able to write of considerate tenderness, too. Scenes in which the Vice Squad communicates with the prostitutes they aim to protect are delicate, with heart and wit at the forefront of the interaction. The thriller is surprisingly domestic, home lives impacting unreservedly on the plot: two female journalists are at its heart, combining raw vulnerability with toughened determination as they learn to cope with being their own greatest disappointment.
Occasionally repetitive, this is a convincing portrayal of friendship in the workplace, of how courage comes in stages and cannot always run deep. However, the novel is also a love-note, and perhaps a battle-cry, to Liverpool. Kearney treasures the detail with which he lays bare his city’s streets, neatly traversing between the wealthy and the deprived, conjuring the fierce collective pride and desperation of a city in transition.

Rating: Compelling debut

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Publisher: Garvey Publishing

   Sutton, the debut novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning J. R. Moehringer
‘What good’s an unloaded gun?’ – Review by Sophie Scott

There is safety as well as excitement in the thumping of a voyeur’s heart, adrenaline-charged from the comfort of an armchair. ‘You’re all about the experience. Until experience comes knocking,’ Sutton tells his handcuffed-by-request, now panicking Photographer. Boy, did experience come knocking for Willie Sutton.
The most famous bank robber of his day, Willie Sutton meticulously crafted his bank robberies, deliberately never killing anyone, elaborately disguising himself to evade capture in his decades-long war against noxious banks. Upon his final release from prison on Christmas Eve 1969, Sutton granted an exclusive interview to a New York newspaper and spent an entire day with a reporter and a photographer visiting the scenes of his crimes and vibrant life. The article, Moehringer tells us, was disappointingly brief and inaccurate. So Moehringer details his guess as to what happened on that day, and during those of the preceding 68 years.
What emerges is a man fantasising to believe himself more sinned against than sinning. A thief uncomfortable with his nickname, Willie the Actor is adept at earning it, romanticising his guilt even as all closest to him are destroyed, ‘I didn’t think it was wrong. I knew it was wrong’. Reporter and Photographer want to endgame Willie’s history and uncover who murdered Arnie Schuster, the Boy Scout rat who put an end to Willie’s plastic surgery-assisted life-in-hiding and became the Judas of Brooklyn. But Willie wants to start his retrospective at the beginning, where ‘the air tastes familiar. Like a dishrag soaked in river water’ and ‘Life was one long argument. Which nobody ever won.’ So commences a day-long road trip along the streets of New York, and across seven decades of memories.
The dialogue is sharp and witty, the language muscular in this vivid, beautifully researched, and convincing narrative. Here’s a ‘Hatchet face, smile like a wince’ and there’s ‘a man whose face looks like an ass. Fat, pale, globular, the only thing missing is a line down the center.’ It’s rooted in its decades: Barnum leads elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge, Brecht’s new play is linguistic currency, Hooverlands spring up, Roosevelt springs in.  The hunger and violence of a childhood in early twentieth-century Brooklyn are stark. Beatings by cops are sickeningly brutal. The terror of incarceration, of months in isolation is upsetting and disturbing. Willie’s powers of observation, creativity and patience are such that, if he’d been sent there, Sutton may have proved the only man able to escape from Alcatraz.
Moehringer’s Sutton is a myth mythologising his life and times. This psychotic philosopher woos and wins us before we can resist him. We see him grow up, watch as his efforts are trampled on, feel his heart break. Here is a self-educated, extremely well-read gentleman who ‘when weary of his studies…simply rereads Wuthering Heights’. With subtle but biting commentary on the media and banks, our obsession with love, money and thrills, Moehringer exposes what a tangled web we weave. I had to remind myself that this is invention because, like the author, it became my wish. ‘Ah New York. You stink. Please let me stay.’

Rating: A non-fiction novel to die for

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Publisher: Blue Door

   The Pyramid Legacy by Clive Eaton
Review by Leslie Gardner

The scenario of the story, and the aims of this action-packed novel are totally ambitious – and even though I feel as if I’ve read much of plotting in other novels (which is a problem), I think readers will feel reassured and confident. Using derivative material is always risky since unless you make familiar events your own it feels contrived – but the sheer energy and enjoyment this writer takes in his work has propelled this reader along despite that.

Also, what is intriguing and unusual, is that the central male figure, Ben, sneaks up on us – at opening he seems a passive if robust character, handsome and smart, but easily manipulated by women around him: but he surprises himself and us standing up to a brutal military man, and begins to see cracks in his love interest in enough time to expose her and her schemes and to find a true partner.

Here’s the problem with the derivative bits though and it makes some of the opening scenes in the pyramid in Egypt weak: it is all too easy to kill someone, so every time it happens (and physical threat is a frequent theme in this novel) its impact diminishes.

As, when you see a girl, you don’t immediately fall in love and into bed with her, or else it gets dull since it is all the same again (and Ben tends to do that!), so the killings and upper echelon machinations of politicians and academics (who are all eccentric and inclined to forget things – their hair is always messy) tends to be awfully wasy.

This writing is intelligent, and while story twists and turns come awfully fast, and maybe because I have read them before, I can keep up and don’t need to absorb so much each and every time, there is an advantage to referencing well-known story and character patterns.

This novel is as much adventure as it is ‘crime’ – there is no central mystery since it is withheld from us for so long, and then it seems never the same mystery – and I never understood the importance of the mystery/discovery either – or else it seemed to morph into another mystery, same clues, all the time. Early on, too, the ‘secret’ is out, and on everyone’s laptop of MP-style device. So sometimes the action seems hysteria-ridden since their reactions seem too heightened correlative to the threat.

The ending promises a new pairing for a future novel – and since Ben is now with a more fully developed female character, there is hope! Perhaps having got so much story-telling out of his system, the author will now go on to find new avenues, and fewer – and make them his own – he has all the technical tools to do so. So this has been not entirely unpleasant reading, but its energy carries the reader through to the end.

Rating: Intelligent writing

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Author Website: www.cliveeaton.com

   Sea of Crises by Marty Steere
Review by Paul Morris

Moonraker meets Mission Impossible as three brothers, the sons of a NASA astronaut who died in mysterious circumstances, take on a shady organisation that wants to keep some top secret Cold War information under wraps, whatever the cost. But the bad guys underestimate the skills of the three men, one of whom would give Jack Reacher a run for his money.

Moving between the tense chase and flashbacks to events in outer space the story generally keeps a good pace and keeps the reader gripped. In places the space scenes get a bit clunky and could have been pruned a little in places. However, overall the prose is tight, well-written and entertaining. Overall,  a refreshing approach to the conspiracy theory genre. Looking forward to more.

Rating: Looking forward to more

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