Lethal White by Robert Galbraith


Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When a troubled young man named Billy asks Cormoran Strike to help him investigate a crime he witnessed as a child, the private eye is left deeply troubled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott — once his assistant, now a partner in the agency — set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside. And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward. His newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been; Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

It’s a year after Cormoran Strike and his detective partner Robin were splashed all over the papers having successfully captured a famous serial killer. Life has settled somewhat into a routine for them both, though the delicate balance they each hold is smashed when Billy, a troubled young man, crashes into Cormoran’s office, insisting the detective help him solve the puzzle of his having witnessed the strangling murder of a young child many years ago. Both Cormoran and Robin are drawn into the investigation – even while they query whether Billy really witnessed what he insists he did. And neither of them could have guessed where their investigation would lead.

This enormous book (very nearly 800 pages in paperback) is a really good read and well worth the investment. While it can be read by itself, I would strongly recommend at least reading the third in the series (the book directly before this one) as the opening few chapters here carry on mere minutes after the conclusion of Career Of Evil. While it is all very clear and well explained – these opening chapters will mean a lot more to readers who are desperate for a better conclusion to the previous book. After these opening scenes though, the book jumps forward a year in time and while Cormoran and Robin still have quite the history in the previous books, I feel any reader could pick the book up from this time jump and be quite comfortable.

I also mainly enjoyed the fact the very long length of the book meant there were quite a few plots all circling around. While I do admit the book could have been more harshly edited and quite a bit of the 800 odd pages could have been cut, I didn’t feel the book really was as bloated as I was expecting. The author spent a good amount of time raising and knitting together a number of plots and threads. For much of the book I really couldn’t grasp what was red herrings and what was actually relevant. This annoyed me to a degree, but then I realised the fact I was questioning this and genuinely unsure what was relevant and what was smoke and mirrors meant the author had blended everything together very successfully.

I do feel that my patience for the will they/won’t they between Cormoran and Robin is wearing thin. I understand many readers demand conflict and tension in their stories, that chemistry and suspense is critical – but after four books and having both characters still frequently miscommunicate and just assume stuff about each other is starting to grate on me. So too is the fact both flatly refuse to acknowledge – or even try to attempt to do anything – about their feelings or try for some sort of resolution or discussion. After four books it’s beginning to get old for me and I’m feeling like they’re both being a bit immature about the whole situation. I’m not ready to give up but I can definitely see my interest with the non-professional side to Cormoran and Robin’s relationship is turning to annoyance, not enjoyment.

Readers looking for an interesting and many layered mystery should find this a good – albeit very long – book. I feel that readers wanting something action orientated or with a romantic resolution won’t find that here, but I did really enjoy the mystery and I found the story very well woven together and kept my interest all the way to the end. I will definitely be reading the next book – but I will admit to hoping a few things might progress or change.

The Funeral Boat by Kate Ellis


The Funeral Boat by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When a skeleton is discovered on a Devon smallholding, DS Wesley Peterson, a keen amateur archaeologist, is intrigued by the possibility that it is a Viking corpse buried in keeping with ancient traditions. But he has a rather more urgent crime to solve, when a Danish tourist is reported missing.

Wesley finds disturbing evidence that the woman has been abducted. His boss Gerry Heffernan believes that Ingeborg’s disappearance is linked to a spate of brutal robberies and that she witnessed something she shouldn’t have.

But is her disappearance linked to far older events? For it seems that this may not have been Ingeborg’s first visit to this far from quiet West Country backwater . . .

A skeleton is discovered on a small farm and DS Wesley Peterson’s boss is convinced it’s the remains of a criminal that had lived on the land then mysteriously disappeared three years ago. But the skeleton appears to have been buried in a boat – one of the rituals many Viking graves have. Wesley’s archaeologist friend, Neil, is convinced the body is extremely old, but a number of questions remain. Then when a Danish tourist goes missing, Wes and his team have to juggle both cases as well as a spate of robberies that have occurred with the local farms.

I have been enjoying this series of police procedural mysteries and am feeling the author is starting to hit her stride. I find there is a decent balance of police procedure and murder mystery – though I do admit readers looking for a heavily historical or strongly archaeology based series might find this side of the plot is often not as front-and-center as the more modern mystery and police aspects of the plot.

I am also enjoying the fact Wesley’s police colleagues and team are definitely being fleshed out a little more and the team is knitting together very well. This has been more of a slower paced arc covering the series as a whole but I am really starting to enjoy it all. This book can absolutely be read by itself and while I am enjoying the longer arc having read each of the previous books in the series, it definitely isn’t necessary to thoroughly enjoy this story on its own merits.

A fun and well written British police procedural murder mystery I enjoyed this book and can definitely recommend the series as a whole.

An Unhallowed Grave by Kate Ellis


An Unhallowed Grave by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A twisted murder mirrors a dark legend . . .

When the body of Pauline Brent is found hanging from a yew tree in a local graveyard, DS Wesley Peterson immediately suspects foul play. Then history provides him with a clue. Wesley’s archaeologist friend, Neil Watson, has excavated a corpse at his nearby dig – a young woman who, local legend has it, had been publicly hanged from the very same tree before being buried on unhallowed ground five centuries ago.

Wesley is now forced to consider the possibility that the killer knows the tree’s dark history. Has Pauline also been ‘executed’ rather than murdered, and, if so, for what crime? To catch a dangerous killer Wesley has to discover as much as he can about the victim. But Pauline appears to have been a woman with few friends, no relatives and a past she has carefully tried to hide . . .

DS Wesley Peterson is called to investigate when the body of a young woman is found hanging from a yew tree in a local graveyard. They quickly realise this death was not suicide – but certainly murder and Wesley is further confused when his archaeologist friend, Neil, points out that the yew tree the woman was hung from was previously known for public hangings and the bodies then buried in unhallowed ground nearby. Just as Wesley feels he may be getting a handle on the case, yet another dead body turns up. Can he solve what’s really going on before disaster strikes again?

I’ve been enjoying this series and found this a particularly well written addition. I am becoming familiar now with all the main characters and feel the team is beginning to really gel together and work cohesively as a unit. I also found this mystery both layered and interesting – not easy to guess at a first glance and well woven enough that it kept my interest all the way through the book.

I was pleased with the balance between police procedural work and archaeology. I felt that while the mystery and murder investigation definitely took a greater share of the storyline, there was regular and important involvement from the archaeology side of the plot and for this book I felt the balance between the two was really good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I feel readers wanting a book really steeped in history or focused more on the archaeology rather than the mystery mightn’t find the balance as enjoyable as I did – but for readers mainly after the mystery/murder aspect and with just a good amount of seasoning with the history and archaeology this book should be very satisfying.

And enjoyable and well plotted read, I absolutely will be reading more books in this series.

The Armada Boy by Kate Ellis


The Armada Boy by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

When archaeologist Neil Watson finds the body of an American veteran of the D-Day landings in the ruins of an old chapel, he turns to his old friend DS Wesley Peterson for help.

Both men are researching an invading force: Wesley, a group of American veterans on a sentimental journey to their wartime base; and Neil, a group of Spaniards killed by outraged locals as they limped from the wreckage of the Armada.

Four hundred years apart, two strangers in a strange land have died violently. Could the same motives of hatred, jealousy and revenge be at work? Wesley is running out of time to find out . . .

DS Wesley Peterson is settling well into Devon. He and his wife are ecstatic to finally be pregnant with their much longed-for new baby and they both are enjoying their work. When Wesley’s old archaeologist friend uncovers a dead body at the site of his next dig – a Veteran’s D Day landing, they begin to uncover a number of secrets possibly better left in the past.

This is the second book in the DS Peterson series, and I found it quite enjoyable. While there isn’t as much of a focus on the archaeology aspect to the plot as I would have liked, this was still a strongly written, well-paced and interesting British police procedural mystery book. I thought the characters were varied enough and well written enough they kept my attention and didn’t get too mixed up.

Readers looking for a strongly historical story might find this doesn’t quite fit the bill for them, but I do think readers looking for a slightly different mystery series – one strongly focused on the police aspect of solving the crime and a slower, more realistic country setting style of pacing – should find this as enjoyable as I did. I did enjoy the way the author handled the World War 2 connections and found them to be both sensitively written but also intriguing enough to maintain my attention. And while the plot wasn’t overly convoluted, it did keep me guessing well into the story.

A strong and interesting mystery novel, this is a good book and a series I plan to continue reading.

The Merchant’s House by Kate Ellis


The Merchant’s House by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

DS Wesley Peterson, newly arrived in the West Country town of Tradmouth, has his hands full when a child goes missing and a young woman is brutally murdered on a lonely cliff path.

Then his old friend, archaeologist Neil Watson, unearths the skeletons of a woman and a newborn baby in the cellar of an ancient merchant’s house nearby.

As they begin to investigate the murders, Wesley starts to suspect that these deaths, centuries apart, may be linked by age-old motives of jealousy and sexual obsession. And the pressure is on if he is going to prevent a further tragedy . . .

DS Wesley Peterson has just arrived with his wife into the West Country, pleased to be out of the hustle and bustle of London. New to the small police force, he is eager to settle in and for he and his wife to make a new home. He bumps into an old university friend from his archaeology days, Neil Watson and the two of them compare their current careers, surprised to find more and more there is some overlap in each of their current projects.

I picked this book up on a whim as it appeared to have a number of similarities to the Dr Ruth Galloway series which I am enjoying immensely. While I didn’t find the characters or plotline as deep or complex as the Galloway series, I did find this an enjoyable police procedural style of mystery novel. The archaeology came out mostly in snippets from a relevant diary at the beginning of each chapter, so readers expecting a strong sense of history or archaeology/digs encompassed in the plot might find this aspect to the story a little lacking.

The mystery and police aspect to the plot is well thought out and while the pace is a little slow, I felt that added more to the countrified air of the story and more authentic than a hurried or more action-orientated city-style of pacing. As the first book in the series, I was pleased there was a decent introduction to the main characters including the members of Wesley’s police team. I would have enjoyed a bit more time spent with Wesley’s wife and be able to understand her a little better. I’m hoping that occurs in the coming few books.

Readers who enjoy British style murder/mystery novels especially with a hint of history/archaeology should find this an easy and entertaining read.

The Final Hour by Tom Wood


The Final Hour by Tom Wood
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

SOMETIMES THE ONLY WAY TO LIVE…

Victor is the ultimate predator. He surfaces to kill, then disappears into thin air. But he’s a disposable commodity for the powerful people he works for—both the good guys and the bad. And no one has his back. Especially now that doing black bag jobs for the CIA has put a target on his head…

…IS TO DIE.

Antonio Alvarez, a high-ranking US intelligence official, is determined to clean house and find the legendary killer who slipped away from him during an operation in Paris. There’s only one person Victor can turn to for help: a lethal female assassin whose life he once saved. And now Victor wants her to return the favor—by killing him….

Antonio Alvarez has been steadfastly tracking a killer for years, ever since one of his jobs with the CIA went very bad in Paris. Back then, he’d been called off by his superior, but now Alvarez has far more power after multiple promotions and Alvarez refuses to let this lie. Victor has continued on his way, but even he understands that sometimes you simply can’t escape the past.

I’ve enjoyed the Victor series for years and this book proves no exception. Usually, these novels can be read by themselves but for this one I’d suggest readers should have read at least a few of the previous installments. A number of characters from the previous books make important contributions to this one and while I admit much of the back story is filled in very well and readers should be able to keep up, I do feel a lot more enjoyment will be gained from having been in on the other adventures and know the history and just how everything has come to pass. I wouldn’t suggest that any of the multiple sub-plots here were left untied in the previous books, but it was fantastic to revisit where various characters are and how they moved on from their experiences – positive or negative – with Victor. I found this an absolute delight.

Victor is definitely a classic anti-hero. While there are numerous redeeming qualities to him, Victor has no illusions about who and what he is. He is a killer. He wants to survive at any cost. This is not a character who can afford to have feelings or sympathy. Readers looking for a softer character or someone who down the track might be good or saved – that’s not what you’ll find here. But for a very strongly plotted, character heavy and action driven storyline that is both thoughtful and enjoyable this is certainly the book for you. I have read each of the previous books a number of times and found this to be an excellent addition to the series.

Different and somehow managing to have emotion and heart despite the content, this is a strong book I feel will appeal to many mystery and thriller readers. Recommended.