Category Archives: Review

Review: ‘The Last Cut’ by Danielle Ramsay

If Martina Cole says it’s good, it’s good – right? Well, the Queen of Crime is quoted on Amazon as saying that The Last Cut is ‘a really cracking read’.

Featuring DS Harri Jacobs and set in Newcastle, The Last Cut is the first in a new series by Danielle Ramsay, writer of the DI Jack Brady books.

Harri Jacobs has returned to her hometown of Newcastle following a brutal attack she endured at the hands of an unknown assailant while working for the Met. With her rapist still at large and the first anniversary of the assault looming, Harri is understandably on edge. However, the tension is cranked up when Harri begins to suspect she is being followed. Add to that a murder victim with similarities to Harri and the reader, along with Harri, are plunged into a nightmare of paranoia and fear in a tense game of cat and mouse.

I really liked the fact that much of the action was set in Newcastle. It was interesting to see how places familiar to me could be turned into dark, threatening locations. Danielle really has a knack for using location to add another layer to her stories.

The Last Cut is a claustrophobic read that had me rather terrified. The twisted characters that Harri comes into contact with chilled me to the bone. Hats off to Danielle Ramsay for creating this pervading sense of discomfort and the uncertainty over who to trust.

Turns out that the last cut is the deepest…

Vic x

Review: ‘The Escape’ by CL Taylor

Following C.L. Taylor’s appearance at Newcastle Noir in April, I downloaded The Escape as I thought the premise sounded interesting. I wasn’t disappointed.

A stranger asks Jo for a lift and Jo, too polite to refuse, acquiesces but quickly wishes she hadn’t when the stranger reveals that she knows Jo’s name, Jo’s husband’s name and also has a mitten belonging to Elise, Jo’s little girl. A warning is issued and things quickly spiral with the authorities involved and Jo’s husband Max turning against her.

The Escape deals with a number of issues which give this novel real depth. It’s such a cracking yarn that I found The Escape difficult to put down.

I will definitely be seeking out more of C.L. Taylor’s work.

Vic x

Review: ‘Black Wood’ by SJI Holliday

When Jo and Claire were young, they were involved in a life-changing incident. When a familiar face arrives at the bookshop where Jo works, the painful memories that left her friend wheelchair-bound are stirred up – as is her lust for revenge. Meanwhile, the small town of Banktoun is shocked by the appearance of a masked man who is terrorising women on the disused railway. We’re introduced to Sergeant Davey Gray who links the current

Black Wood is SJI Holliday’s debut novel and it twists and turns like you wouldn’t believe! The characters in this book are believable which makes it all the more unnerving. Told through a split narrative, Black Wood describes the events that changed Jo and Claire’s lives. It’s pacey and tremendously atmospheric and the layers within Black Wood add real pathos.

I’m really looking forward to visiting Banktoun again soon, I’ve got Willow Walk – the follow-up to Black Wood – on my TBR pile.

Vic x

Review: ‘Block 46’ by Johana Gustawsson

The mutilated corpse of a jewellery designer is discovered in a harbour in a Swedish marina while a young boy’s body is found in London with similar wounds around the same time. Emily Roy, a Canadian profiler on loan to Scotland Yard, begins to investigate the case alongside French true crime writer Alexis Castells. As the story continues, Roy and Castells uncover evidence to suggest that there may be a link between these murders and the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

Written by Johana Gustawsson, and translated into English by Maxim Jakubowski, Block 46 is a tense thriller which unravels slowly but masterfully. The chapters are choppy and keep the plot moving along nicely. The language used throughout the book is beautiful which juxtaposes the violence of the murders well.

The plot is utterly intriguing and I can see how the partnership of Roy and Castells could be turned into a successful series – there are plenty of narrative strands that could be explored further.

When I saw Johana Gustawsson talk about Block 46 at Newcastle Noir, I saw that the subject had deeply affected her and I couldn’t wait to read this book. The fact that Gustawsson has weaved present-day narratives with an historical element makes this a really unique novel. A must-read.

Vic x

Review: ‘Exquisite’ by Sarah Stovell.

Imagine you are feted author with the world at your feet. You have a startlingly successful career, a loving family and a beautiful home. You go to teach on a week-long residential writing course in Northumberland and meet a talented but troubled young woman. The chemistry between you is instant and you embark on an all-consuming affair like the ones you write about: or do you?

Exquisite is a breathless and claustrophobic read which captivates you until the final page. I literally could not put it down. It’s been a long time since I read a psychological thriller as good as this. I could see the action unfolding in my mind and already have a clear picture of who would play these characters in a TV or film adaptation.

The way in which Sarah Stovell has crafted this book requires a tremendous amount of skill. The narrative completely reflects the obsessive and confusing nature of the relationship between Bo Luxton and Alice Dark. Exquisite is layered  to perfection and ensures that your sympathies never lie with one person for very long. Sadly, it’s terrifyingly believable.

A must-read.

Vic x

Review: ‘Lost For Words’ by Stephanie Butland

Stephanie Butland’s third novel, Lost for Words, is being touted as a book lover’s dream book and I’m rather inclined to agree. Loveday Cardew works in a second-hand bookstore and prefers books to people. She has her favourite first lines tattooed on her body and an acerbic wit to keep people at bay.

Loveday is prickly to say the least but I, like several of the characters in this book, love her. The relationships between the characters are really intelligently written and are therefore totally believable. The attention to detail in this novel really adds to the story. I loved the scenes in which Loveday would discover notes in the margins of books or past treasures hidden in between the pages.

Stephanie Butland has created a compelling yarn, combining romance with deeper, darker questions and a well-drawn cast of characters that I was fully invested in. The flashbacks are skillfully woven into the present-day narrative to give the reader just enough information to keep them guessing.

I absolutely loved this book, for a bibliophile, it really has it all – performance poetry complete with original poems, relevant literary references everywhere you look in addition to characters to care about. It, like the bookshop, is utterly charming.

And as a Spotify fan, I’m thrilled to say there’s a playlist to listen to as you read. 

In the words of Shelley Harris: ‘I cried like a motherf***er.’

Vic x

Review: ‘Six Stories’ by Matt Wesolowski

If you haven’t already read Six Stories, I recommend that you rush to your nearest bookshop and purchase it now. And then read it. Most likely in one sitting.

Six Storiespublished by Orenda Books, is the book everyone is talking about and I, for one, would be happy to wax lyrical about it until… well, the end of this blog post but you know what I mean. In fact, I loved this book so much that if you meet me face-to-face, you will undoubtedly hear me refer to this book at least once during our conversation. I appeared at Pure Fiction on Thursday night and mentioned Six Stories during the Q&A. I did also mention other books too, obviously.

Anyway, Six Stories is a real stroke of genius. Following on from the success of podcasts like SerialSix Stories revisits a mysterious death that occurred on the fictional Scarclaw Fell in 1997. The official verdict was death by misadventure but, twenty years on, the podcast aims to reexamine the circumstances and relationships surrounding teenager Tom Jeffries’ death. The elusive presenter, Scott King, interviews the key players and encourages listeners to draw their own conclusions.

You can tell Wesolowski has taken a real interest in podcasts and he mimics the style of them with considerable aplomb. As with Serial, Six Stories builds up a picture each week and, just as you think you can conclude something, you’re given a new piece of information that confuses or confounds your theory.

This is a brilliant character study and an interesting take on the benefit and wisdom of hindsight. I also loved the sinister undertones (although it made walking around my house at night slightly terrifying).

Six Stories is utterly compelling and despite being entirely engrossed, I defy you not to be shocked by the ending.

An original concept with skilled execution – totally unputdownable!

Vic x