Review: Hangman by @Daniel_P_Cole @orionbooks

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Eighteen months have passed, but the scars the Ragdoll murders left behind remain. DCI Emily Baxter is summoned to a meeting with US Special Agents Elliot Curtis of the FBI and Damien Rouche of the CIA. There, she is presented with photographs of the latest copycat murder: a body contorted into a familiar pose, strung up impossibly on the other side of the world, the word BAIT carved deep into its chest. As the media pressure intensifies, Baxter is ordered to assist with the investigation and attend the scene of another murder to discover the same word scrawled across the victim, carved across the corpse of the killer – PUPPET. As the murders continue to grow in both spectacle and depravity on both sides of the Atlantic, the team helplessly play catch up. Their only hope: to work out who the ‘BAIT’ is intended for, how the ‘PUPPETS’ are chosen but, most importantly of all, who is holding the strings.

Last year, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Ragdoll by Daniel Cole. It was a great and unique police procedural that made a difference because of the way the story progressed. By the time I finished reading it, I deeply admired Daniel Cole’s ability to craft such a unique storyline.

I didn’t know what to expect from Hangman, but the early reviews seemed promising enough. And while I wasn’t sure how I felt during the first few pages (confused, for sure), I soon became so engrossed in the story that I forgot everything around me. I read it compulsively and I didn’t want to do anything else.

As in Ragdoll, Hangman’s concept and consequent storyline is “big” and complex. This is not a small crime and it’s not set in a small town either. This is a rather spectacular case set both in London and New York, designed to stay in your mind, filled with graphic murders and shocking scenes that feel powerful and cinematic.

The main character in this book is not William Fawkes, aka Wolf (if you read the last book, you can imagine why), but her friend/colleague Emily Baxter. There were other major characters like Rouche and Curtis, and my personal favorite, Alex Edmunds. The interactions between them were sometimes hilarious and although Baxter isn’t exactly easy to love, you have to admire her wit. Rouche was incredible as Baxter’s partner in crime and her boyfriend will probably win the Boyfriend Of The Year award really soon.

I’ve consciously avoided mentioning any details about the plot because I want you to discover everything for yourselves. Hangman’s story is a complex web of lies and manipulation that will make you reflect on how villains are created. And of course, there were plenty of twist and turns for everyone to enjoy.

So even though I loved Ragdoll, I love Hangman even more. It’s bigger, it’s better, it’s surprising and captivating and it has everything I look for in crime/thriller books. Whatever you do, don’t miss it.

ARC, Trapeze, Orion Books, 2018

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Review: The Heart’s Invisible Furies by @john_boyne

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Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.

After many recommendations from blogger friends (and especially from Renee), I finally sat down and read one of the most popular books this past year. And no, I didn’t read it all in a sitting, but I could have. It’s THAT good.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies was a beautiful, funny, sad, poignant and ultimately inspiring saga that tells the story of Cyril Avery, a young Irish boy who’s adopted by Maude and Charles -a very peculiar couple-. After getting to know her birth mother and her circumstances, we get to see him grow up, make friends, fall in love and find out who he really is. This book spans many years and is set in Dublin, Amsterdam and New York…

This is one of those books that I wish I hadn’t known anything before I read it, so I will be brief today. This is an absolute gem of a novel. It’s hilarious at times (seriously, the dialogues were witty and laugh out loud funny) and it will also make you cry. After all, aren’t those the best stories? Plus, there are lot of fun coincidences that made it even more enjoyable.

This was not a short book, but I flew through it like it was. It’s one of the most captivating sagas I’ve ever read and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone. Cyril Avery isn’t perfect and he behaves in a selfish way more than once, but I felt like I was inside his head and I could totally understand why he did those things.

In the end, crime fiction and mysteries are my favorite type of books, but John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies made me forget about those for two uforgettable days.

Doubleday, 2017

#ThrowbackThursday The Rosary Girls by @RRMontanari

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Renee @It’sBookTalk began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. I’ve wanted to join this meme for a long time and I thought it would be a great idea because it forces me to read books from the TBR and not only new releases. And, of course, I can also include some old favorites!

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Kevin Byrne is a veteran cop who already knows that edge: He’s been living on it far too long. His marriage failing, his former partner wasting away in a hospital, and his heart lost to mad fury, Byrne loves to take risks and is breaking every rule in the book. And now he has been given a rookie partner. Jessica Balzano, the daughter of a famous Philly cop, doesn’t want Byrne’s help. But they will need each other desperately, since they’ve just caught the case of a lifetime: Someone is killing devout young women, bolting their hands together in prayer, and committing an abomination upon their otherwise perfect bodies. Byrne and Balzano spearhead the hunt for the serial killer, who leads them on a methodically planned journey. Suspects appear before them like bad dreams–and vanish just as quickly. And while Byrne’s sins begin to catch up with him, and Balzano tries to solve the blood-splattered puzzle, the body count rises. Meanwhile, the calendar is approaching Easter and the day of the resurrection. When the last rosary is counted, a madman’s methods will be revealed, and the final crime will be the one that hurts the most. 

I read this a few years ago and I really loved it. The Rosary Girls was the first in a procedural series (Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano). Unfortunately,  I didn’t read any of the following books (ouch!); I really need to keep up with my series!

This was a thrilling and old-fashioned thriller featuring a sadistic serial killer in the city of Philadelphia. I loved the partnership between Byrne and Balzano and the way the author made me care about both the characters and the case. I was captivated from the very first page, as the prologue was creepy and mysterious.

I don’t recall everything about the plot, but I remember I couldn’t stop reading and I felt like I had discovered a new favorite series.

Review: White Chrysanthemum by @marylynnbracht ‏@ChattoBooks ‏

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Hana and her little sister Emi are part of an island community of haenyo, women who make their living from diving deep into the sea off the southernmost tip of Korea. One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier heading for where Emi is guarding the day’s catch on the beach. Her mother has told her again and again never to be caught alone with one. Terrified for her sister, Hana swims as hard as she can for the shore. So begins the story of two sisters suddenly and violently separated by war. Switch-backing between Hana in 1943 and Emi as an old woman today, White Chrysanthemum takes us into a dark and devastating corner of history. But pulling us back into the light are two women whose love for one another is strong enough to triumph over the evils of war.

White Chrysanthemum was a sad and beautiful novel that told a story based on real events that I honestly had no idea of. And I’m so glad I learned about what happened, even if the reality was hard to process. By the time I finished the book, I read the author’s notes and kept searching for more info about “confort women”. It was simply terrifying.

So, what the book is about: 1943, Jeju Island (Korea). Hanna is a sixteen-year-old girl who is considered a “haenyeo” woman (fema divers). One day at the beach, Hanna wants to protect her little sister from the Japanese soldiers, but she ends up being abducted instead. From that moment, we follow Hanna’s devastating story in 1943 as she becomes a victim of sexual slavery, and Emi’s life as a woman in her seventies, while she tries to come to terms with what happened many years ago.

This is not an easy book to read due to the subject matter, but I believe it’s an important read nevertheless. Maybe because of that, I felt much more connected to Hanna’s story than Emi’s, as hers wasn’t as “emotional” or shocking, but I guess it was still necessary so as to show us what happened to those women who remained in the island. By the way, the concept of “haenyeo” women was so fascinating, I wish I could be like them.

Despite the heartbreaking events that were portrayed in this novel, I believe Mary Lynn Bracht’s writing was beautiful and evocative and I would definitely read another book by hers. Let’s remember “comfort women” and don’t let history forget them…

ARC, Chatto & Windus, 2018

Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by @stu_turton @BloomsburyRaven

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‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’ It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

Okay, so how do I even review this book? The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was probably my most anticipated read this year. The moment I came across that blurb, I knew I needed to read this book. I’m a big fan of the whole Groundhog Day premise and I already talked about my love for Before I Fall on the blog. Happy Death Day was also one of my favorite films last year, so Seven Deaths was high on my list. And it was a murder mystery! What more could I ask for?

I admit it, as much as I ended up loving this book, my relationship with Seven Deaths didn’t start off that well. I don’t know if anyone else had the same issue with the Netgalley format, but my ebook file was a mess. Random 0s and 1s all over the pages, no capital letters, paragraph breaks that made no sense… it was hard to follow. And if you take into account that the actual plot isn’t the easiest to understand, you can imagine my confusion. I almost gave up before I even reached 10%. But. The idea was awesome and it seemed like such a cool story, so didn’t it deserve a bit of an effort? Yes. So I kept on reading…

At first, I remember thinking: what is this even about? For the first 20%, I had no idea where the story was going. I didn’t understand anything, there were too many characters and the Agatha Christie character guide would’ve been useful if I had been reading the hardback or paperback version (no, of course my format didn’t allow me to go back to the beginning!). And who the hell was Anna? Wasn’t this book about Evelyn? Who are these creepy evil characters? But you know that moment when you realize you’re actually enjoying a weird book? I knew I was beginning to like this novel… And for sure I wanted to know what was going on!

And the more I read, the more I loved it. I couldn’t stop. No, I didn’t understand half of what was going on, but I no longer cared. I loved how this book messed with my mind. It’s my favorite feeling in the world. And I had to continue reading. It wasn’t only about the high-concept plot and the promise of a mind-blowing puzzle. I also really liked the main character, Aiden Bishop, and I was rooting for him. I wanted him to escape Blackheath. But he was so stubborn! Oh, how he made me suffer…

I deeply admire Stuart Turton’s work here. He has created such a complex and unique novel, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like Seven Deaths. I’m sure no book has ever made me feel like this one. It’s not an easy read and it’s definitely not for everyone, but I’ve never been happier that I decided to keep on reading. This was very different from all the other Groundhog Day stories I’ve read or watched. Stuart Turton took it one step further. And I’m glad.

By the time I reached the conclusion, I felt like I was watching an episode of Black Mirror. I had read that some people were disappointed with the ending, but I enjoyed the case resolution (so Agatha Christie!!!) and I really loved the world created by the author and the way he answered all the questions about Blackheath.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a truly original and mind-blowing novel that could easily become a cult classic.

Netgalley, Bloomsbury, 2018