Tuesday Thriller! Here Be Dragons: A Short Story (Lacey Flint) by Sharon Bolton

Going undercover…

 

A summer evening in London, and Mark Joesbury is steering a Marine Unit boat up the Thames. He’s under orders but not from his superiors. An undercover mission is going badly wrong, his cover is blown and the bad guys are holding a gun to Lacey Flint’s head…

Tuesday Thriller white gunslinger

What a brilliant story! Any fan of the Lacey Flint series must read this, and it would actually work fine as a standalone too. In terms of time period, it crosses over with the ending of A Dark and Twisted Tide, tying in with things we learned in that one, while avoiding any spoilers for it. It’s novella length – I’m rubbish at converting from Kindle length (881) to pages but I’d guess about 60 or 70. Long enough for Bolton to give us a really believable, satisfying story, with as much depth as most novels achieve, but just the right length to read in one session.

The plot is great and frighteningly credible, based on a terrorist threat, which is as much as I’m going to tell you about it. It’s the gorgeous and lovely Mark Joesbury who’s in the starring role for once, and he fills it perfectly, though of course Lacey has a part to play too. As she did in A Dark and Twisted Tide, Bolton brings the Thames to life, with its shifting tides and hidden dangers lurking beneath its moody beauty, running between some of the most important buildings in the UK. Her descriptive writing really is second to none at creating an atmospheric sense of place.

Here Be Dragons

Although in a sense it’s a police procedural, because it’s based around Mark’s undercover work it reads much more like a true thriller. There’s no real detection element to it, certainly not as far as knowing who the bad guys are anyway, but there’s still a big element of suspense in not knowing exactly what’s going to happen.

And tension! Oh yes! Brilliant build-up, fantastic dénouement. Pulse-racing stuff – can’t remember when I last enjoyed a short story so much (sorry, James Joyce!). And as for the ending… trust me, Lacey fans, you’ll want to have read this one before the next novel comes along. Which I hope will be soon!! The best kind of cliffhanger – the type that leaves you satisfied but also wanting more…

Can you guess I’m recommending this one? *turns cartwheels while blowing a horn*

* * * * *

Yippee Ki Yay rating:     😮 😮 😮 😮 😮

 

It's a Bruce Willis!
It’s a Bruce!

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A Dark and Twisted Tide (Lacey Flint 4) by Sharon Bolton

a dark and twisted tide“Till human voices wake us, and we drown…”

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

After her recent experiences, Lacey has stepped back from her role as a detective and joined the Met’s Marine Unit, patrolling the Thames. She’s also moved to live on a houseboat moored in Deptford Creek and taken up the highly dangerous sport of river-swimming. And it’s when she’s out swimming alone one early morning that she finds the first body…

This is another excellent entry in the Lacey Flint series, with all the regulars back in fine form. Mark Joesbury (sigh!) is off on an undercover mission but we know he won’t be able to stay away from Lacey for long. Dana’s long-distance relationship with Helen is still continuing, and Dana is becoming desperate to have a child. And Lacey, although still suffering the after-effects of her last couple of cases, is continuing to move towards a more normal existence – she’s just about ready to finally accept that there may be a life for her with Mark.

SJ Bolton (source: sjbolton.com)
Sharon Bolton
(source: sjbolton.com)

I’d suggest that, although at a push this book could work as a standalone, it would be much better to read the series in order starting with Now You See Me. The crime story works fine on its own, but the characters develop and grow so much throughout these books that a new reader coming in in the middle might be left a bit puzzled as to the dynamics amongst the members of the team.

Normally Bolton’s plotting is one of her major strengths but, to be honest, I didn’t think the plot of this one was quite up to her usual standard. It relied a bit too much on coincidence and stretched credulity a little too often; and, more than that, I felt the main points of the solution were too easy to work out fairly early on. I also found myself questioning how often we can believe that a killer will specifically target Lacey. However, one of Bolton’s slightly less good plots is still about twenty times better than most people’s best, and what it perhaps lacked in tension was made up for by the brilliant descriptions of the Thames and the people who live and work on it. There are some of Bolton’s trademark creepy moments that set my spine nicely a-tingle – I was never a huge fan of crabs but oooh! Well! They may figure in my nightmares for a while now… 😯

Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrgggggh!!!!
Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrgggggh!!!!

The story is hard-hitting but as always Bolton manages to tell it without gratuitously-described violence or excessive foul language; and, though the murder victims are young women, Bolton is far too talented and original to rely on tedious scenes of sexual humiliation and torture to harrow her reader’s soul. Lacey is a bit of a maverick, but thankfully not a drunken one, and more and more we see her trying to conform to rules and procedures. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this series has been watching Lacey’s gradual transformation from weird loner to valued team-member – she’s not completely there yet, but she’s getting close. And the fact that she’s changed so much and yet remained completely credible is a testament to Bolton’s skill in characterisation.

By a tiny margin, not the best in the series perhaps, but still one of the best books I’ve read or expect to read this year – highly recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Transworld.

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Seek and ye shall find…or maybe not…

I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m completely fascinated by the Stats Page on the blog. It amazes me that someone pops in from Croatia from time to time, not to mention Vietnam and Nepal – hallo there! And if the person who visits from Barbados would like to give me their address, perhaps I could pop over for a wee visit? 😉

I’m intrigued to see what people click on and whether my widgets tempting people to visit other posts I’ve liked have any effect (not very much, is the answer to that I’m afraid). And I adore seeing that tiny little ‘views’ number grow…

But most of all, I love seeing what search terms bring people to the site. So often I feel like I should apologise for not being at all what they were looking for! So I’ve decided to respond to a few of the questions that have up until now sent visitors away disappointed…

 

Search term: picture of Anne Hathaway

Answer: To the many, many film fans who search for this, I’m sorry. I think we’re talking about different Anne Hathaways, but I hope you’re not too disappointed when you end up at this…

Anne and Will (www.konokene.com)
Anne and Will
(www.konokene.com)

 

Search term: plot of Three Men in a Boat

Answer: Three men row up the Thames in a boat and then catch a train back. Hope that helps!

 

Search term: Arnold H Lubasch e-mail address

Answer: Look, I only read his book – we’re not on those kind of terms!

 

Search term: anything containing the words ‘pirate copy’ or ‘torrent’.

Answer: Buy the book!!

 

Search term: Picture of Adonis

Answer: So sorry! Different Adonis, I think, but here’s a picture anyway…

Andrew Adonis (wikipedia)
Andrew Adonis
(wikipedia)

 

Search term: The Village is defined as a thriller.

Answer: Not by me, it’s not!

 

Search term: Lacey Flint is weird

Answer: I know…she is a bit…

 

Search term: ending of 6 years harlan coben

Answer: The End

 

Search term: Carmilla indistinguishability/criticisms/Catholicism/politics (I know it seems unlikely, but that search term or similar has brought hosts of people here from all over the world – I guess the book has become a set text.)

Answer: Just remember that Laura may or may not represent Anglo-Irish Protestantism fearing the onset of Home Rule, that Carmilla does represent Irish Catholicism, Carmilla doesn’t represent Irish Catholicism or Carmilla might represent aristocratic Irish Catholicism, or Laura and Carmilla are actually indistinguishable from each other – two voracious cultures (or should that be curvaceous vultures?) devouring each other. There! The exam should be a doddle now…

Carmilla and Laura
Carmilla and Laura

 

Search term: arne dahl sexual content

Answer: some, but I’d only give it a seven…

 

Search term: aatish1 full girals

Answer: Sorry, could you repeat the question?

 

Search term: The many, many people who search for ‘…. Book report’

Answer: Do your own homework, you lazy young whippersnappers!

 

Search term: vamos rafa shorts

Answer: Yeah, I’ve searched on that one myself sometimes…

rafa 2013 2

Late addition…

 

Search term: (The most recent request) the monster that emerges from the lagoon with wet eyes!

Answer: OK!

cat on water

Sincere thanks to everyone who visits – for whatever reason!

You brighten my day!

Like This, For Ever (Lacey Flint 3) by SJ Bolton

like this for ever“Blood will have blood…”

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Publication due 11th April 2013

Lacey Flint’s third outing shows Bolton at her best – inventive plotting, great characterisation, plenty of humour, much of it black, and a sense of tension that builds throughout to a thrillingly dramatic climax. (I say third outing, but it’s really the fourth if you count the short novella If Snow Hadn’t Fallen, in which we first met Barney, Lacey’s young neighbour.) The book starts with the discovery of the body of twins under Tower Bridge, the most recent victims of a serial killer who steals young boys and cuts their throats. The MIT squad, still led by Dana Tulloch, is getting nowhere fast – these murders don’t fall into the normal pattern as there’s no sign of a sexual angle. Dana and the squad are already feeling the pressure and it’s going to get worse…

Meantime DC Lacey Flint is in a bad way psychologically after her horrific experiences in the last book, Dead Scared, (I’m not surprised – I’m still pretty shaken up over that one myself!) and hasn’t yet returned to work. Spending more time at home, she’s getting to know young Barney better, and is concerned that Barney seems to be left alone a lot while his dad is working late. But Barney and his friends are more fascinated than frightened by the killings and are following every twist and turn in the investigation on social networking sites.

SJ Bolton(source:www.boekreview.nl)
SJ Bolton
(source:www.boekreview.nl)

In this outing, with Lacey being outside the main investigation, we get to know the rest of the team better and the book is much more of an ensemble piece. Lacey is still trying to deny her feelings for DI Joesbury, but he’s not planning on giving up on her just yet. Added to the usual characters are Barney and his friends, and Bolton handles them brilliantly – they’re completely convincing in their interactions with each other and with the various adults, and add a lot to both the humour and the tension. And when I say tension, I mean nail-biting, spine-tingling, up-till-4 a.m.-because–you-need-to-know-how-it-finishes tension!

One of the things I enjoyed most is that there’s an old-fashioned whodunit at the heart of this very contemporary book. Bolton gives us all of the clues and a huge cast of suspects, and then uses her consummate skills in the art of misdirection to keep us guessing. I suspected everyone in turn, many of them twice! But Bolton still managed to keep me on tenterhooks right up to the thrilling end. A great addition to a great series – highly recommended!

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher.

***

Post Script – Like London buses, you wait for years and then three Queens of Crime turn up at once. Once upon a time, there were Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L Sayers. Now we have a new triumvirate in SJ Bolton, Jane Casey and Belinda Bauer. This year so far we’ve had Bauer’s wonderfully black and gruesome Rubbernecker, then this tension-filled and immensely well-plotted one from Bolton. And Casey’s much anticipated new Maeve Kerrigan novel, The Stranger You Know, is due out in July…no pressure, Ms Casey!

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If Snow Hadn’t Fallen (Lacey Flint Novella) by SJ Bolton

A taste of unease…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

if snow hadn't fallenIn terms of plot, this novella-sized story falls between the first and second books in the Lacey Flint series, although it was actually published after the second one. Unusually for this author the plot is fairly clichéd; however, the quality of Bolton’s writing always lifts her stories above the average. The story starts with the burning to death of a man in the park behind Lacey’s house; and Bolton gives us a generous taste of the creepiness and unease that she used to such great effect in Dead Scared, the second full-length book in the series, which for me was one of the best and certainly the scariest crime thriller of 2012.

SJ Bolton(source: sjbolton.com)
SJ Bolton
(source: sjbolton.com)

Lacey Flint’s character changed quite a lot between the first book, Now You See Me, and the second – and for the better, becoming warmer, more open, more likeable. In this story, she is more like she was in the first book, a maverick loner, but we see signs of her becoming more part of the team and more involved with the other recurring characters.

In summary, a good if short read and interesting for watching Flint’s character develop. Having now read the new third book, Like This For Ever, I realise that part of this novella’s purpose is to introduce us to Lacey’s young neighbour, Barney, who plays a significant role in the book. As I’ve said in each review, although each book contains a standalone story, it’s better to read them in order because Lacey’s character and relationships develop as the series progresses; so I would recommend reading this as it was published – that is, after Dead Scared.

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Dead Scared (Lacey Flint 2) by SJ Bolton

dead scaredSpine-tingling…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

With this second instalment of her Lacey Flint series, SJ Bolton has set herself a new standard – one that ensures her place amongst the very best of contemporary crime writers.

Although I enjoyed the first in the series, Now You See Me, I had some reservations around both style and characterisation. But not with this one. Scary enough to be truly spine-tingling, well-plotted enough to keep the suspense going throughout and with some really funny moments to lighten the tone, Bolton has given us a real treat of a novel. I felt the lead character, detective Lacey Flint, has been changed quite a bit since her last outing and for the better.

SJ Bolton(source: sjbolton.com)
SJ Bolton
(source: sjbolton.com)

She has become a more open, much more likeable character, less of a loner and now with a sense of humour and considerably less angst – all to the good. Her interaction with Evi Oliver, student counsellor, is very convincing as is her relationship, both personal and professional, with DI Mark Joesbury.

The plot about a spate of students committing suicide couldn’t be much darker, and there are bits that are very unsettling and downright creepy. Bolton handles the tension masterfully right up to the end and certainly left this reader hoping that the series will continue for some time to come. Highly recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

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Now You See Me (Lacey Flint 1) by SJ Bolton

Ripping yarn!

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Now You See MeSince the new Lacey Flint novel, Like This, For Ever is due out in April, it seems like a good time to post the reviews of the earlier books. I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to read an advance copy of the new one and will be posting a review shortly. For readers new to the series, do read them in order – although each is a stand-alone story, they refer back to the previous stories and Lacey’s character and relationships develop as the series progresses. Now You See Me is the first and though, for my money, it’s also the weakest, (though still very good), it’s where we get to know a lot about what makes Lacey tick. Here’s the review I posted on Amazon…

A serial killer is on the loose and copying the crimes of Jack the Ripper. This well-written story is told in the first person, through the eyes of young policewoman Lacey Flint, who has had a life-long fascination with the Ripper story. At first, it seems accidental that Lacey should have been the one to find the first body, but when the killer starts sending letters to the press, it becomes clear that she is being targeted in some way.

SJ Bolton(amazon.co.uk)
SJ Bolton
(amazon.co.uk)
The plot twists and turns cleverly throughout the book. At least twice I thought I had it all worked out, but wrongly each time. However, I didn’t warm to many of the characters and found it difficult to empathise with Lacey in particular. I felt the first-person narrative became a problem in the second half of the book when it was obvious that Lacey knew far more than she was telling. Though this was necessary to maintain the suspense, I felt it created a distance between Lacey and the reader. Ultimately, I also found the plot to be stretching the bounds of plausibility.

But despite these criticisms, what could have been a standard serial killer novel was raised above the average by the quality of the writing and the author’s ability to misdirect. The suspense was maintained to the very end. Well worth reading and I’ll be looking out for more from this author.

Looking back at this review a couple of years on, I realise it’s less than glowing but I’m glad I stuck with the series because in the next one, Dead Scared, Lacey came into her own in a big way.

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

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