APRIL CRIME READING: NEW BOOKS BY JOSHILYN JACKSON, C. J. CARVER and DAVID MARK
My late April crime reading has been very mixed and has ranged from a dark psychological chiller to a domestic suspense thriller to an exciting tale of conspiracy and murder. I am also currently reading a very good ‘podcast’ thriller by newcomer Amy Suiter Clarke.
David Mark is probably best known for his DS McAvoy series of police novels, but he has branched out over recent books into the realm of quirky, stand-alone chillers and has produced a couple of gems in the form of
The Mausoleum and A Rush Of Blood.
Cages is his latest stand alone novel and is a very tense tale that goes down some dark alleys. Rufus Orton once wrote a highly praised literary novel, but his writing career has been downhill ever since and he is forced to accept a job teaching creative writing at a prison to earn some money. The teaching role was organised by one of his few remaining fans, prison officer Annabeth Harris. Annabeth is keen to improve the lives of the prisoners that she is responsible for, but she also has a dark secret that threatens to destroy her life. Joining the writing class is sex offender Griffin Cox who is suspected of being a child killer, although no remains have ever been found. Cox is a master manipulator who sees the class as an opportunity to escape and sets about conniving his way to freedom.
This dark tale takes a little time to get underway, but the pace picks up as the story unfolds and the final third of the book is very suspenseful. Mark is an adroit plotter and he carefully slots the various elements of his story into place and skillfully draws the strands together as it moves to an unexpected and shocking conclusion.
The writing is literate and witty and there are nice flashes of dark humour, and some clever lines that bring a smile. Mark is also very good at creating interesting, nuanced characters that develop and change with the story. The central trio are well crafted, but so are the minor characters, especially the detective who is trying to bring Cox to justice. Mark is also skilled at writing scenes that not only entertain, but reveal depth in the protagonists, including an early chapter where the prison class is engaged in a captivating character creation exercise.
Overall Cages is another grim, but quietly entertaining tale by David Mark. Recommended.
Cages was released as a hardback in the United Kingdom on 31 March 2021 and will be available on the Kindle in Australia and the United Kingdom on 1 May 2021. Thanks to Severn House and NetGalley for an early copy of the book.
Those who enjoy a mixture of domestic suspense and crime thriller, with a subtle dollop of social commentary, will like Joshilyn Jackson’s Mother May I.
Atlanta mum Bree Cabbat has a perfect life of wealth, privilege and a healthy family, until her baby boy is kidnapped while she is watching her teenage daughter rehearsing for the school play. In order to get her son back she has to perform a simple task, but things quickly escalate out of control and she soon finds herself caught up in a deadly act of vengeance.
Joshilyn is good at mixing the marital concerns and romance of the domestic suspense novel with the tension and action of the straight thriller. The story gets off to a brisk start and Joshilyn does well at portraying Bree’s angst and fears over the kidnapping of her son, and her efforts to keep the kidnapping secret from her family are emotionally tense and believable. The family and relationship dramas are well balanced by Bree’s desperate efforts, aided by a former cop, to find out who has kidnapped her son and why. The second half of the book is probably stronger than the first, as the details of the reason behind the kidnapping are gradually revealed and the tension mounts.
Some elements stretch credibility, but overall this is a solid, heart-pounding story about a mother who will do anything to protect her family. There are also some good reflections on the uneven balance of power in society and how simple actions can ruin someone’s life for ever.
Mother May I is published by Raven Books in Australia, and was released in Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA in early April 2021.
C. J. Carver’s Scare Me To Death is probably the most addictively readable of the three books, but requires a good suspension of disbelief.
Sixteen years ago a bomb brought an international flight down in Morocco, killing 214 people. Thirteen people survived the crash, including Kaitlyn Rogers whose murdered body has just been found in a London Airbnb. The police believe that she was killed by a new boyfriend, a nerdy accountant with some dodgy clients. However, DC Lucy Davies is not convinced, especially as evidence emerges that her death is linked to the bombing sixteen years before. Enlisting the help of her friend, former MI5 agent Dan Forrester, Lucy begins to look into the circumstances around the bombing and finds a web of corruption reaching from Morocco to London.
This is an enjoyable thrill-a-minute action novel that races from the original plane crash to current day killings in Morocco and London, and a terrific climax. Carver is very good at this sort of free flowing thriller and she knows how to keep the plot moving and the action coming. The scenes in Morocco are evocative and exciting and there are plenty of surprises as the police investigation unfolds in London.
It is fun and very readable, but after awhile the co-incidences begin to mount up. The story involves characters and relationships from Carver’s previous three books about Forrester and Davies, and elements from these books add a complexity to the story that is not really needed.
I am a big fan of Carver’s novels, especially last year’s The Snow Thief, but this one seemed a little rushed to me. I also thought that it would have worked better as a stand-alone novel, rather than being jammed into the Forrester and Davies series. There are some clever ideas and good reflections on how businesses manipulate crises, but a couple of the sub-plots seemed to be tacked on.
In all, Scare Me To Death is an enjoyable rollercoaster ride of a thriller, as long as you are willing to go along with the various co-incidences.
Scare Me To Death was released in the United Kingdom and Australia in early April. It is available on Kindle, for a very reasonable price, and as a paperback.
OVERALL VIEW: the three books are very different, but each are enjoyable in their way. Of the three, I preferred Scare Me To Death for the pace and excitement, but got a little frustrated with it. Cages was not far behind it and Mother May I will appeal to those who enjoy domestic suspense thrillers.