Review: Good as Dead by Mark Billingham

good as dead

On a fairly regular basis, the mood strikes for a crime spree.  Crime fiction used to be my favourite genre and it is still one I delve into often.  I love a great police procedural, and have been a long time fan of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series.  I like to spread the books in this series out to make them last.  The 9th book in the series  (From the Dead) didn’t float my boat quite as much and I was a little disappointed, but I was confident that number 10 would see Billingham and Thorne back on top form.

Good as Dead is certainly a faced paced read.  The action unfolds over three days and Thorne needs to work quickly due to the hostage situation.  The plot is thoughtfully composed with all the requisite red herrings, clues and garden paths, and the tension is palpable.  But for all its’ pace and tension, I was left disappointed again.  Things seemed to tail off towards the middle-end and I feel this one could’ve done with a bit more editing.  I found the ‘love interest’ aspects quite boring and tedious and there was not enough of the great relationship between Thorne and Hendricks.  Sadly, I was left with the feeling that I may have outgrown Tom Thorne.  But this is by no means a terrible book – it is suspenseful, there is tension, and a good mystery … it just didn’t quite meet my high exceptions.  3 stars.





Review: Out by Natsuo Kirino

Book Review: Out by Natsuo Kirino

I haven’t come across a great many crime novels written by Japanese women, so I was intrigued by this book.  Having said that, I bought this book in Borders, Oxford Street which closed down years ago, so it’s been sitting on my shelf, unread and gathering dust, for quite some time.

Out is a grim, gritty and grimy look at life in urban Japan.  It follows a small group of women who work the gruelling night shift in a bento factory.  They manage to get themselves into a bit of a pickle, shall we say.  The characters fall into a dirty world with no thought to the consequences of their actions, no questions and no qualms.  Just one simple idea – “what’s in it for me?”.  I think this book is a great example of a ‘horrible character/good plot’ story (as opposed to the ‘horrible character/horrible plot’ that is Gone Girl).  The characters are selfish, desperate human beings who engender no sympathy from the reader, but the complicated and intricate plot keeps you reading.  You need to know what happens to these despicable characters.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It didn’t quite grip me in the way I hoped it would, and one scene sticks in my mind for being so jarring and out of kilter with the rest of the writing – one scene that we see from two different perspectives; the only scene in the book that we see in this way.  It just didn’t sit right with me.  But it was interesting to read about the underbelly of Tokyo, where things are not so peaceful, tranquil and calm.  A good read, but nothing to blow your mind.  3 stars.


Review: Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary

Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary
Published by Headline on 28 August 2014
Copy received for review from the publisher via

From Goodreads:
Some secrets keep you safe, others will destroy you… 

Detective Inspector Marnie Rome. Dependable; fierce; brilliant at her job; a rising star in the ranks. Everyone knows how Marnie fought to come back from the murder of her parents, but very few know what is going on below the surface. Because Marnie has secrets she won’t share with anyone. 

But then so does everyone. Certainly those in the women’s shelter Marnie and Detective Sergeant Noah Jake visit on that fateful day. The day when they arrive to interview a resident, only to find one of the women’s husbands, who shouldn’t have been there, lying stabbed on the floor. 

As Marnie and Noah investigate the crime further, events begin to spiral and the violence escalates. Everyone is keeping secrets, some for survival and some, they suspect, to disguise who they really are under their skin. 

Now, if Marnie is going to find the truth she will have to face her own demons head on. Because the time has come for secrets to be revealed…

First of all, let it be known that I am a huge fan of the Crime Fiction drama.  If I could only read one genre for the rest of my life, I would probably choose Crime Fiction.  So it was with some excitement that I received this novel for review, the first in what will hopefully be a long and thrilling series by Sarah Hilary!

It is quite difficult to say much about this book without giving away the plot.  It is a gritty and cruel piece of fiction with a believable twist (take note Gone Girl fans!) that I did not see coming.  The women in the refuge are a sad and desperate group screaming out for your empathy.  DI Rome herself is a woman struggling to come to terms with a tragic past and at times I just wanted to give her a hug (though I’m not sure she would appreciate it!).   My one little niggle is something silly … it really annoys me when police officers go off on their own, putting themselves into situations you just know are not going to end well.  Don’t they ever learn?!

The book contains some fairly graphic and descriptively gruesome violent scenes, but this just adds to the grittiness of the novel.  Several different plot lines weave together to create an intriguing and memorable debut and I am waiting impatiently for the second instalment in this series.  Hurry up Sarah Hilary! A glowing 4 stars.

Review: The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

Publisher: Penguin Classics (2006)

First Published: 1970

From Goodreads:
Described as ‘a metaphysical shocker’ at the time of its release, Muriel Sparks’ The Driver’s Seat is a taut psychological thriller, published with an introduction by John Lanchester in Penguin Modern Classics.

Lise has been driven to distraction by working in the same accountants’ office for sixteen years. So she leaves everything behind her, transforms herself into a laughing, garishly-dressed temptress and flies abroad on the holiday of a lifetime. But her search for adventure, sex and new experiences takes on a far darker significance as she heads on a journey of self-destruction. Infinity and eternity attend Lise’s last terrible day in an unnamed southern city, as she meets her fate. 

One of six novels to be nominated for a ‘Lost Man Booker Prize’, The Driver’s Seat was adapted into a 1974 film, Identikit, starring Elizabeth Taylor.

It is quite hard to review this novella without giving anything away, but I will try!  At just over 100 pages, I flew through this in a couple of hours.  It is a cleverly woven tale of a woman bored to death by her mundane life, and is a dark and compelling tale.  The reader knows from the first couple of pages what the outcome will be for Lise, and the journey to the conclusion is at times as funny as it is tense.  And then you feel awful for laughing at this poor woman who clearly has issues.  A very clever tale, told so succinctly and tightly with not a single wasted word!

This was my first read of Muriel Spark’s work and I will definitely be seeking out something else by her.  This was was shortlisted for the ‘Lost Man Booker Prize’ in 2010 and anyone who likes a tense psychological thriller would love it.

Just sneaking in …

I was just about to say I’d made it back here within a month, but then I realised that it’s almost two months since I set foot in blogland … oops!  I’ve fallen off the wagon with just about everything!  No proper ‘recipe book’ cooking, no arting whatsoever, very little reading, and not much ‘socialising’ online (or in real life!).  I have managed to keep posting a word every day for my lovely band of 365+1ers, but I haven’t posted many photos myself.  I’m not sure why I go through these cycles all the time.  It seems like I get all creative and inspired for a couple of months and then crash and do nothing for a couple of months.

So, since February what have I been doing?  Working (not that hard, I must admit.  Working part-time is such a pleasure and I’m so lucky to be able to do that!).  And holidaying! I guess that might have been a cause for my preoccupation – I went into super hyper planning mode for our Orlando holiday, and it was two weeks of bliss! Perfect weather, thrilling rollercoasters and gorgeous food.  The first week’s worth of photos are up on my flickr account if anyone’s interested in having a look … the second will be up at some point (no promises!).

And since we returned I’ve felt a tiny shift in mood, and am starting to feel the need to get inky and painty again.  I’ve been bloghopping and youtubing.  I’ve even, thanks to a little prodding from the utterly gorgeous Anne, posted a daily photo (just the one, but it was yesterday, and today is still young so there is still hope!)

And I’ve read a book!

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

This was a gripping read that I absolutely couldn’t put down!  It had been gathering dust on my Kindle for a long time, and I have no idea what took me so long to get round to it!  I would highly recommend this tense novel to anyone who enjoys a psychological thriller (and doesn’t mind the odd graphic scene or F word!).  It reminded me a bit of Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson, but I enjoyed Into the Darkest Corner more.  A definite 5 * read!

So there we have it.  The blog has been updated.  Usually when I come back to blogging after a short while away I tend to rejig the whole look of it, but actually I really love the way my blog is looking right now!

I hope I still have some followers!  Do any of you experience cycles within your hobbies or interests?  Please tell me I’m not alone!

Review: Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay

The Blurb (from
It starts with a trip to a local amusement park. David Harwood is hoping a carefree day at Five Mountains will help dispel his wife Jan’s recent depression, black moods that have led to frightening thoughts of suicide. Instead, a day of fun with their four-year-old son Ethan turns into a nightmare. When Jan disappears from the park, David’s worst fears seem to have come true. But when he goes to the police to report her missing, terrified that she’s planning to take her own life, the facts start to indicate something very different. The park’s records show that only two tickets were purchased, David and Ethan’s, and CCTV shows no evidence that Jan ever entered the park at all. Suddenly David’s story starts to look suspicious – suspicious enough for the police to wonder if she’s already dead, murdered by her husband. To prove his innocence and keep his son from being taken away from him, David is going to have to dig deep into the past and come face to face with a terrible childhood tragedy – but by doing that he could risk destroying everything precious to him.

The Review
Looking for a gripping thriller of a read? Linwood Barclay knows how to do it. Never Look Away is his fourth novel and I would almost say his best yet. In his previous books the plot has tended to run away with him a little, and there’s always a point where you think “oh, come on, this would NEVER happen!”. But that point doesn’t really come in Never Look Away … although there is one twist in the plot which does come close to being unbelievable, but I’ll give Mr Barclay the benefit of the doubt. It did take me a little while to get into this one, but once I knew I was hooked I checked the page number and I was on page 101, so it didn’t take all that long.

Never Look Away tells the story of a man looking for his wife. A wife who, he discovers, is not who she says she is and who he doesn’t really know at all. The police, of course, think he has done her in and this is really quite a scary concept, being taken for guilty until proven innocent! I can only imagine the terror of being wrongly accused of murdering someone you love, someone you are desperate to find.

This is by no means a literary masterpiece, but it is most certainly a page turner with an absorbing plot and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good thriller!

My Rating: 4/5