Look the Other Way – a review

Thursday_horizons

Kristina Stanley is among my favourite mystery authors and when her Stone Mountain series closed with Avalanche, I wondered where we would be swept to next. (Well, if I was truthful, I had an inkling as Kristina is one of my gurus.)

So, in the next mystery, we are transported in Look the Other Way from the mountains, we are now afloat.

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Look the Other Way

by

Kristina Stanley (Goodreads Author)

SUBMERGED BENEATH THE DEPTHS IS A SEA OF SECRETS…

A year after her Uncle Bobby mysteriously disappears in the turquoise waters surrounding the Bahamas, Shannon Payne joins her grieving aunt to trace Bobby’s last voyage. Shannon hopes the serenity of the sea might help her recover from a devastating breakup with her fiancé.

Sailing the 38-foot catamaran, A Dog’s Cat, is Captain Jake Hunter, a disillusioned cop who has sworn off women. While Shannon tries to resist her growing attraction to the rugged captain, she uncovers dark truths about her uncle’s death that might send them all to the depths.

Review 4.6 stars

I’m always ready to pick up another Kristina Stanley mystery and I wasn’t disappointed with this one.

She takes her diverse life encounters and creates great stories from them – this time tapping into her sailing experience. As a result, the characters, settings and situations ring true, and I was with Shannon Payne in the Bahamas, sailing A Dog’s Cat, attempting to resolve what happened to her Uncle Bobby, and I had to wonder when something might happen with rugged Captain Jake Hunter. Is he what he says he is?

The novel was well-structured, balancing mystery and romance while weaving the plotlines together. As a mystery writer, I attempt to unravel the threads and there were more than enough to keep me reading – even after I worked out who the antagonist was, sometime before the end.

From that point onwards, the suspense element went up some notches as my concern for Shannon’s situation grew. My mind was trying to keep ahead of her…and the villain. Getting that revelation moment right needs skill as not all readers ‘click’ in the same place – keeping them on board takes craft, and Stanley has that in boatloads.

Also, there were some clever red herrings that kept my ‘little grey cells’ buzzing for page after page. All the characters had backstories and depth, with various reasons to suspect them of committing some crime. Their actions were sometimes deceptive and there were plenty of misunderstandings as in all good mysteries.

The Bahamas setting was both enticingly exotic and hidden with subtle threats. Many of the places must be real – or felt that they should be. The author’s knowledge of boats and sailing lent the writing an authentic vibe – and from my limited experience ‘mucking around in boats’, I felt swept along with events of a maritime nature. And the characters’ relevant skills varied appropriately from those that knew their charts to those needing a bottle or a life-jacket – or both.

Look the Other Way is another excellent Kristina Stanley novel that kept me thinking, so if you like a good mystery plus sailing and romance, I would recommend this book – 4.6 stars raised to Five.

I suspect that if this isn’t meant to be the start of a new series, then popular opinion might demand the return of Shannon Payne. However, until then we can anticipate a new Kristina Stanley mystery that is in the works. For now, I’ll just recommend each one she’s already written.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

#IWSG Mystery Love

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Today is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post and a chance to promote the Fictionary Finish Your Novel Contest.

First, the IWSG post:

February 7 question – What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

Although I write in various genres – mystery, SF/speculative, fantasy, alternative history and even children – Mystery must be the one that I write in most often.

My debut was an equestrian mystery – Spiral of Hooves – so its sequels will be. My current series is a mystery/police procedural – Snowdon Shadows. Even draft novels in other genres have a strong mystery element.

Yes, I love a perplexing mystery and my mind enjoys devising the twists. When I read a good mystery, especially by a master like Agatha Christie, I try to outthink the ‘detective’ but usually fail. However, when I finish a great mystery novel, I like looking back to see how the story was crafted, for instance with the clues buried in the text at key points. Learning how to use red herrings, deceit, and well-timed distractions are something that I still need to take on board.

One of my favourite examples is Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd with its brilliant twist ending. How this was achieved is masterful and one reason why I keep writing and reading Mysteries. A modern favourite in a similar vein, and also a lesson in crafting a mystery, is Sally Quilford’s The Secret of Lakeham Abbey.

You can flick through my Book Reviews to see how many Mystery novels I read. What do you recommend? What genre do you read and/or write? And why?

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The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

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Fictinary_contest

I am currently using a brilliant tool for online editing my current WIP and I highly recommend it. Fictionary was developed for writers by writers and makes many of the tasks after writing an early draft much simpler.

If you sign up with Fictionary for a free 10-day trial by February 18th, 2018, you will be automatically entered for the contest to win a Grand Prize of a lifetime Fictionary subscription and a $1999 FriesenPress Publishing Path. There are also additional prizes – further details and sign-up at https://fictionary.co/Finish-your-novel-contest/

I will be doing an assessment of Fictionary in the next day or so, looking at the various elements that I have been using – or intend to use.

 

 

Avalanche – a review

Kristina Stanley is one of my writing inspirations through her Stone Mountain mysteries. For the release of Avalanche in 2016, I ran her thoughts on ‘Writing A Series’ which encouraged me in writing my Welsh police procedural. Why I put off reading Avalanche until now is another mystery, especially as I rated the first two books as five stars each.

Anyway, that lapse is now corrected so here’s my review:

Avalanche Cover Final 

Avalanche (A Stone Mountain Mystery #3)

by Kristina Stanley (Goodreads Author)

On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear.

The police and the president of the resort turn their sights on Kalin, who risks everything to covertly attempt to clear Roy’s name. As threats against her escalate, she moves closer to uncovering the guilty party. Is Kalin’s faith in her brother justified? Or will the truth destroy her?

Editorial Reviews:

“A mountain as deadly as it is majestic; characters far too familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins and murder—Kristina Stanley’s Avalanche has it all. This fast-paced mystery is as thrilling as a heart-stopping run down the slopes.” —Gail Bowen, author of the Joanne Kilbourn Shreve mysteries

“Layer upon layer, like snow building for an avalanche, Stanley weaves a story that keeps you guessing. You can’t turn the pages fast enough.” —Jeff Buick, author of Bloodline

“Avalanche smashes and uproots relationships in Stone Mountain Resort, leaving devastation in its wake. With as many layers as winter’s snow, this whodunit will keep you turning pages and guessing to the end.” —James M. Jackson, author of the Seamus McCree Series (less)

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Review – 5 stars

Although Kristina Stanley says at the end of the novel that she wrote Avalanche first, this became the third book in the series. Having read and enjoyed the first two Stone Mountain mysteries, I recommend them all and suggest reading them in order. Once again, Kalin Thompson is the main protagonist, but characters from previous books return and previous incidents are cleverly referred adding to the backstory.

From the fast-moving opening when Kalin’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears, the plot twists and turns with enough clues and suspects to keep the reader thinking to the end.

There are multiple suspects when the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, but with Ray as the prime suspect, Kalin must act covertly to clear his name. How she handles her discoveries and her torn feelings about her brother’s guilt drive the main thread of the novel.

The story is tightly plotted, well-structured and, as I noted down while reading, it’s ‘edge of my snowmobile tense’. There are various suspects when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police begin investigating from Ray to Kalin via other employees at Stone Mountain Resort. I kept wondering, ‘Who will be next?’, ‘Who is guilty of what?’ and ‘Who do you trust?’. Not only Kalin needed to be wary but others caught up in the events as the threat level escalated.

The suspects were gradually narrowed down, although there were enough remaining as the end drew near. Plus, the accusations against Kalin were ongoing, adding to the tension. Twists kept coming, leading to the final confrontation that I only half-guessed in advance. Key elements were cleverly foreshadowed.

The author’s characterisation is excellent in that everyone has something to distinguish them – even the lift-girl from New Zealand. The reader sees the other characters through Kalin’s eyes and through other characters’ viewpoint. The use of various POVs enhances the story and adds to the subplots, diversions and to the red herrings that I always enjoy in a mystery.

The resort offers an evocative setting and Kristina Stanley’s knowledge of that world rings true without creating unnecessary detail. From my time in Canada and my winters skiing on different hills, Stone Mountain Resort and the intrigues came alive for me.

Avalanche was a fast-paced and easy read, and, as I’ve come to expect from Kristina Stanley, and from Imajin Books, it’s well-edited. A definite recommendation if you want a pacey mystery. But read Descent and Blaze first for maximum enjoyment – not vital but best.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

 

Love Story, with Murders – a review

Having discovered the quirky and dark Welsh detective Fiona Griffiths in Talking to the Dead, I had to read Book 2 in this unique series. I didn’t regret it and Book 3 beckons. [For my review of Book 1 see: https://rolandclarke.com/2016/04/11/talking-to-the-dead-a-review/ ]

Love Story

Love Story, With Murders (Fiona Griffiths #2)

by Harry Bingham (Goodreads Author)

The second novel featuring recovering psychotic DC Fiona Griffiths opens with as intriguing a pair of murders as you could imagine. Firstly, part of a human leg is discovered in a woman’s freezer, bagged up like a joint of pork. Other similarly gruesome discoveries follow throughout a cosy Cardiff suburb, with body parts turning up in kitchens, garages and potting sheds. And while the police are still literally putting the pieces together, concluding that they all belong to a teenage girl killed some ten years earlier, parts of another body suddenly start appearing, but this time discarded carelessly around the countryside clearly very shortly after the victim – a man – was killed.

Mysteries don’t come much more macabre or puzzling than this. Who were the two victims, and what connection could they have shared that would result in this bizarre double-discovery?

But that’s only half the story. The most gruesome moments are much more about Fiona and her curious mental state. There is a complex and very clever double mystery here, and what makes the story unique is the parallel unraveling of Fiona’s own mystery, and it’s her voice, established precisely in the first book but given even freer rein here, that makes it so compelling.

Review 5 stars

In this second novel in an engrossing series, DC Fiona Griffiths is once again challenged to apply her strange talents to solving a case or maybe it’s two cases. This DC is not like others and this is one of the winning formulas that Harry Bingham gives to the character.

With her personality traits being at times psychotic, the first person POV works as we discover more and more about Fiona’s past and about the cases. She has more than murder to handle and she needs to act off-piste to get things done and progress the cases. The violence, in the victim’s remains or the action, is not excessive or overtly gruesome, but some fans of the cosy approach might baulk at it. Fiona doesn’t, of course.

At this stage in her policing career, Fiona still has things to learn, often things she recognises and ignores at her cost – but what better way to keep the plot moving and the reader guessing. Her relationship with her fierce boss, DI Watkins, is unexpected and interesting – the secondary characters are all well portrayed, especially the DI. There are sub-plots surrounding some of them and these all add to the story.

Fiona’s attitudes are unusual but her flippancy and willingness to think her mind are what makes her unique – and believable. I wouldn’t want her to be ‘normal’ and boring – in fact, people aren’t when we get to know them properly as some of the characters prove over time.

The settings from Cardiff to the rural areas of South Wales are all vividly evoked, and through Fiona’s senses, so, we also discover more about her in the words she uses. Having lived in Wales – North Wales – there were descriptions that stirred memories – for instance:

“The valley narrows as it climbs. Pasture and snippets of woodland on the valley floor. Green fields pasted as high up the mountainsides as technology and climate can take them. The flanks of the hillside are grizzled with the rust-brown of bracken, humped with gorse and hawthorn, slashed with the rocky-white of mountain streams.”

Anybody that has negotiated Welsh roads will recognise the ones that Fiona needs to take on her rural investigation. Throughout, the settings felt realistic as did the way that the plot unfolded. Nothing is ever neat in a Fiona Griffiths case – nor in reality.

You never know what Fiona is going to do next, so the reader needs to keep going – and believing in her and the author. Fiona keeps the tension going with her decisions and actions. I was on the edge of my seat as I read, hoping that Fiona would survive – even if I knew there were sequels. That takes good writing to bring about.

I loved the Welsh attitude, even if not all Welsh people are as forthright as Fiona in saying, “Twll dîn pob Sais.” Later in the novel, she repeats this as a thought and translates -” Every Englishman an arsehole”.

After a stimulating ride for my head, I am ready for the next book, having recommended the first two without reservation – well, if you want a cosy mystery series look elsewhere. I want more of Fiona and her different approach to policing, to life – and I want to know what is at the heart of her behaviour, to discover more about her past.

Note that this was released in 2014, so, this comment from Fiona had me wondering if Harry Bingham was going to get tweeted by the US President;

“My newfound clarity allows me to look at the pole-dancing platform too. It’s got all the class of a Las Vegas casino personally styled by Donald Trump”

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

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UPDATE: This review had to be edited for Amazon, as it was rejected in this version. I wonder why. Where did I stray from their guidelines? I removed three paragraphs in the hope that might evade the censors – 1. the comment about Englishmen; 2 &3. The paragraphs about Trump. Was it the profanity or the reference to the Twitter Man?

 

Angela Wren on tour: Merle

After my review of Messandrierre, yesterday, I am pleased to be promoting Angela Wren’s second book in the Jacques Forêt series, Merle.

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Angela Wren

on tour

September 4-15, 2017

Merle cover

Merle

(mystery)

Release date: July 5, 2017
at Crooked Cat Publishing

208 pages

ISBN: 978-1546811985

Website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.
The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.
When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it.
Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Merle Angela Wren

Angela Wren
I’m an actor and director at a small theatre
a few miles from where I live in Yorkshire in the UK.
I did work as a project and business change manager
– very pressured and very demanding –
but I managed to escape and now I write books.
I’ve always loved stories and story telling
so it seemed a natural progression, to me, to try my hand at writing.
My first published story was in an anthology,
which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ and published in 2011.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.
My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.
I also write comic flash-fiction
and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.
My full-length stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Visit her website and her blog. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

 

Buy the book on Amazon

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GIVEAWAY

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to all
5 winners

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CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS,
EXCERPTS, AND INTERVIEW

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Messandrierre – a review

July 5th saw the launch of Angela Wren’s Merle, the second novel in the Jacques Forêt crime series, about which I will post about next.  So, I knew that I needed to re-visit Messandrierre where I first encountered Angela Wren’s intelligent investigator, Jacques Forêt. This release of Merle is a chance to expand on my initial review of Messandrierre.

Messandrierre

Messandrierre (Jacques Forêt #1)

by Angela Wren (Goodreads Author)

Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre.

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case.

Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

Messandrierre – #1 in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.

Also in the series:
Merle (#2)

Review 5 stars

I enjoyed every page of this mystery, so read the novel twice. The pace suited the setting that felt as real as the memorable characters. Messandrierre may not exist – or maybe it does. The Cevennes is my favourite region in France, and Angela Wren captures the nuances perfectly. The location came alive so much that I was convinced that I had been there.

The people felt real, from the principals of Jacques and Beth to all the secondary characters that made up the vibrant picture of a French community, and the wider area beyond. Each one had their idiosyncrasies, and some had secrets that added clever threads and red herrings to the mystery.

The plot developed steadily with the additional plotlines adding to the investigation. Jacques is not exactly alone in unravelling who is responsible for the disappearances that set the case simmering.

Messandrierre neatly built to a climax, that I guessed but not in the manner it happened. I was tricked into a bit of wrong thinking a few times – on the first reading. On the second, I saw how Wren had created her cunning red herrings – or should I say harengs rouges.

This novel is a mystery that I highly recommend for those that don’t need a fast-roller-coaster ride and want to savour the story. I also recommend Messandrierre for those that like indulging in exploring the France off the beaten track – but don’t expect a tame tourist guide.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars