Book Review: The Deadly Houses by Charlie Gallagher

The Deadly Houses
by
Charlie Gallagher

Detective Sergeant Maddie Ives is on the night shift at the Canterbury police station when she receives an unusual call. A man waits outside, ready to confess a murder. Adrian Hughes claims he kidnapped and brutally killed a young woman and he’s ready with all the details and evidence that will put him in jail, including where to find the woman.

The details check out but Ives thinks Hughes is lying. Her new boss is anxious for a quick conviction, however, so Ives must dig fast if she wants to uncover the whole story. While she’s out in the field, she relies on the sharp investigative skills of DC Rhiannon Davis to gather information. And soon her former partner, Harry Blaker is on the team, pulled from a quieter, low-pressure assignment he’d requested after a personal tragedy.

The reader knows there’s more because additional characters reveal strange and confusing details. And alternating scenes put the reader in an abandoned building where prisoners are forced to watch violent and disturbing videos. In a race against time and unknown enemies, Ives will need sort it out before more people die.

The Deadly Houses is the sixth book in the Maddie Ives police procedural series set in the UK but it can be read as a standalone. It was easy enough to get into the plot and I did not feel like I was missing out on a back story. That said, I found the story somewhat overloaded with details and its bad guys were a little too twisted and extreme for my tastes. The author is also a police officer and his knowledge of procedures and politics shows, making that part authentic.

The dominant theme of this story is the protection of women and children from violent partners and the author gives the reader a closer look at important police and social programs designed to help.

As with many thrillers, readers will need to bring with them the usual suspension of disbelief. Maddie Ives powers through many injuries and defies the odds in a number of situations. But she’s a likable character and has good rapport with Blaker and Davis and a peek at her personal life rounds out the story nicely.

All-in-all, I liked The Deadly Houses, but think this series is more geared towards fans of police procedurals.

I received a copy of The Deadly Houses from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone
by
Wilkie Collins

Rating:

Serious mystery readers may already know that The Moonstone is considered “the first and greatest of English detective novels.” Those are the words of T. S. Eliot, poet, playwright, literary critic and winner of the 1948 Nobel Prize for Literature. I read The Moonstone, which was first published in 1868, for the Whodunits mystery book club at the library where I work.

Wow. It’s a whopping, 482 pages of dense type, with footnotes, so I had to go hard to get it read by my deadline, but it was totally worth it!

The story begins in India, with the Storming of the Seringapatam by an English Imperialist army, during which a valuable gem is stolen from a religious icon. John Herncastle brings the famous Yellow Diamond back to England and, when he dies, it goes to his niece, Rachel Verinder, on her eighteenth birthday. It’s an act of revenge, though, because the gem is rumored to be cursed and Herncastle’s family hates him. And a mysterious trio of Indians has been lurking in the shadows ever since Rachel’s cousin, Franklin Blake, brought the Diamond, aka The Moonstone, to the family’s home in Yorkshire.

Rachel wears the Diamond for her birthday party and by morning it’s missing. The local police manage to offend the servants and soon, the famous Sergeant Cuff is called from London. He discovers an important clue, and the investigation takes off. Rumors from London suggest the gem been pawned and secured in a bank vault. If true, how did it get from Yorkshire to London?

The narrative is from many points of view, beginning with Lady Verinda’s butler, Gabriel Betteredge. He quickly becomes Cuff’s sidekick as they try to unravel the events that led to the lost Diamond. Other narrators include a poor relation, Miss Clack, who is eager to share her carpetbag full of religious pamphlets and Franklin, who was also Rachel’s love interest before the gem went missing, and is now under suspicion. Many additional characters contribute clues, but they don’t always lead in the right direction: Rosanna Spearman is a plain housemaid (and former thief) with a deformed shoulder, and she knows something. Philanthropist Godfrey Ablewhite is another love interest and “Limping Lucy” Yolland holds a letter that may explain a lot.

The mystery is set in both the coastal region of Yorkshire, where a scary tract of quicksand may have swallowed up some answers, and in London, where shady lender Septimus Luker has an office and family lawyer Matthew Bruff wields an imposing legal influence.

Halfway through the book and you wonder if the mystery will ever be solved. It will, but there’s a lot to discover, through briefly introduced characters in the beginning, and new characters, all leading towards a twisted and spectacular finish.

While not an easy read, I totally recommend The Moonstone as an example of how it’s done. I’m only giving it 4.5 stars, however, because of its difficulty.

And here’s something interesting: the book was originally published in serialized format by Collins’s good friend, Charles Dickens!

Have you read The Moonstone? What did you think?

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The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow
by
Fiona Barton

Rating:

Jean Taylor discovers a new freedom when her husband suddenly dies. Now a widow, maybe she can reveal the dark secrets they have kept. The press wants to know her story—can she trust the reporters who have camped outside her door?

When they first marry, Glen seems like the perfect husband, but he slowly reveals a controlling nature, first in how they set up their house, and later in how they live their lives. As a young bride, she yields to Glen’s directions. But the game changes when the police come to their door asking Glen about the disappearance of a two-year-old girl.

At Glen’s urging, Jean embraces the phrase “stand by your man” and she’s good at it. She doesn’t know what she’s hiding, but she wants to believe him.

Glen tells her,

This is a terrible mistake, but we mustn’t let it ruin our lives. We need to stay strong until the truth comes out. Do you think you can do that?”

And she replies,

Of course I can. We can be strong for each other. I love you, Glen.”

That’s her mantra, until a few of the secrets surface.

The Widow is a suspense novel and psychological study about the horrifying secrets of an offender living in plain sight. It’s also a look at family and the strains of a childless marriage. The story is balanced by the police investigation, led by an obsessed Detective Inspector Bob Sparkes, and includes a look into the procedures, power struggles and politics in his department. In addition, Fiona Barton has used her journalism experience to show how reporters and newspapers write their stories, the tricks they use to get people to talk, and their strategies to steal stories from each other.

The Widow is a fast read, with a couple twists, but a fairly predictable finish. Reviews have compared it to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, but I would put it on a tier below those engrossing thrillers. Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing how Jean handled the truth and thought the author did a good job describing Jean’s predicament.

I recommend The Widow to readers who enjoy a quick suspense novel and stories about secrets.

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