Blog Tour – BLACK SUMMER by M.W. Craven.

Winner of the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger Award

Blurb

Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath…He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?

My Thoughts

What a deliciously creepy and utterly brilliant opening! Huge applause to M.W. Craven – you hooked me in with style! An utterly grotesque style… but it certainly does the job and creates an extremely tense and repulsive moment for the readers to start to unpick. It was even worse when I googled the Ortolan Bunting and found out the dish is actually true!!! I was truly horrified! To understand what I am referring to it’s best to order the book and read it yourself…so off you go, get it ordered!

There are other reasons to order this book, Craven’s plotting and pace is exceptional. The crime solving duo of Washington Poe (what a name!) and Tilly Bradshaw (you can’t help but adore her), make this book extra special. Oh, and if you don’t already know, this is the second book featuring Poe and Bradshaw; the first book is ‘The Puppet Show’ which I would also highly recommended reading.

The hook and central conundrum in ‘Black Summer’ is how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time. It is soon apparent that Poe and Bradshaw are embroiled in a twisted, dangerous game that might defeat them both and even destroy Poe’s life. Craven is the ‘King of Plotting’ and I love the journey he takes the reader on, inserting inventive clues with great subtly, and dropping dastardly clever red herrings. It’s smart and pulls in all the devices required of this genre and more.

I’m not saying anything else about the actual plot; I don’t want to spoil anything at all, (the book blurb is enough) you really need to pick this book up. It’s inventive, character driven, complex, tense with delightful touches of humour to lighten the darkness of the crimes, and balance the character relationships.

I loved it and am lucky to also have one of the Goldsboro first 250 editions! Thank you to Beth, at Little Brown, for also sending me the paperback, I can re-read the book without fear of spilling my tea on those precious first edition pages. Thank you to Mike for getting in touch so I could be a part of this blog tour and for the most marvellous storytelling!

Inventive, dark, witty and addictive – if you haven’t met Poe and Bradshaw yet… what are you waiting for?

Author

A brand new voice in British crime fiction, M.W.Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle. He joined the army at Sixteen, leaving ten years later to complete a social work degree. Seventeen years after taking up a probation officer role in Cumbria, at the rank of assistant chief officer, he became a full time author.

The first in the Washington Poe series, The Puppet Show, won the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger, has sold in numerous foreign territories and has been optioned for TV by Studio Lambert. M.W.Craven has been shortlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award, an Amazon Reader Award and a Cumbria Life Award. He is also the author of the Avison Fluke novels, Born in a Burial Ground (shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger) and Body Breaker.

SHADOW by James Swallow and published by @ZaffreBooks #CompulsiveReaders #blogtour

Published 12th December by Zaffre

Blurb

A ruthless far-right terrorist is broken out of captivity.

A mysterious scientist with a terrible secret is abducted.

A lethal contagion threatens millions of lives across Europe and the Middle East.

Ex-M16 officer Marc Dane faces a deadly race-against-time to stop a devastating attack before a new kind of weapon is unleashed…

My thoughts

This is the fourth book in the Marc Dane action thriller series. It’s my first read of this series… although that really didn’t seem to matter at all.

This book doesn’t mess about, and you are hurtled into an action packed opening, swiftly moving between two high pressured and dangerous situations. It’s a relief (and great plotting) to calm down as we are introduced to people on a smuggler’s ship and the plot develops and deepens; it’s not long before the tension and action creeps back. I don’t read that many action thrillers, but I was drawn easily into the story. The central characters of the book series were introduced well and with enough background information to easily pick up who these people are and what has lead them to this point. Marc Dane, our lead and Ex-M16 officer, and Lucy Keyes, Ex Delta Force and now a private contractor with Dane, are brought into a kidnapping case and are soon off on a dangerous mission.

‘Shadow’ is an action thriller novel that is driven, well-researched with engaging lead characters that work aplenty to hook the reader into a dramatic plot of kidnapping, terrorism and mass destruction as a new threat is uncovered. Thank goodness Marc Dane has at least 9 lives; he’s literally leaping constantly into dangerous situations! Keyes is not much better, so they’re quite a pair. It’s one of those novels where you need to suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride. I had a great time reading this. Dane’s character make-up is along the lucky lines of characters like Bond, Bourne, Reacher and Ryan and it’s dramatic action fun. I think the difference here with some lighter reads, is the book is very well researched, I found it easy enough to pick up unfamiliar subject areas of the military, technology, digital and terrorism. The world building and descriptions of the landscapes were also really atmospheric and detailed. The scene on the Icelandic tundra made me turn my heating up!

If you are looking for an incredibly pacy, very well-written action thriller read, that is tense, full of drama with non-stop action moments – then join Marc Dane and Lucy Keyes in ‘Swallow’.

Author

James Swallow is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author and script writer with over 750,000 books currently in print around the world. He was nominated for a BAFTA for his writing on the acclaimed video game DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION. His new novel and Marc Dane thriller Rogue is coming in May 2020.

Follow James on Twitter @jmswallow

Previous books in the Marc Dane series: Nomad, Exile and Ghost.

November Mini Reading Wrap-Up

An enjoyable month of reading some of my long awaited TBR books and some new 2020 releases. Favourites from this month are ‘His Bloody Project’, ‘The Silent Companions’, ‘Black Summer’ and ‘The Night Circus’. As always, some brief summaries and ratings below.

In December, I’m anticipating a quiet reading month for a few reasons, including spending more time with family and friends as Christmas approaches, more work to get finished so I can relax over the Christmas break and the main reason… I have a TV. It’s been quite a few years since we’ve had a TV in our front room. I’m enjoying a honeymoon period… so my reading is sure to suffer. But I doubt for long.

I’m back soon with two blog tours next week, looking forward to chatting books again soon!

‘His Bloody Project’ by Graeme Macrae Burnet – five stars. Loved this story of a brutal triple murder in the Scottish Highlands, it’s written as a memoir and searches for the truth. Fascinating.

‘The Silent Companions’ by Laura Purcell. Loved this gothic thriller – all the creepy period vibes you want from this kind of book, locked rooms, old diaries and the most disturbing painted wooden figures lurking beyond every turn of the page. 5 stars.

‘Vengeful’ by VE Schwab is the sequel to ‘Vicious’. 4 YA stars, this continues the supernatural battle between past friends and now adversaries Victor and Eli – lots more supernatural occurrences and a formidable enemy emerges for them both. Enjoyable dramatic supernatural fun.

‘The Hunting Party’ by Lucy Foley ticks most of the thriller genre requirements. A great premise and collection of characters, for me there were some pacing issues but the final half picked up and I raced towards the ending and my answers. 4 stars.

‘Black Summer’ by M.W. Craven – this is the second in the Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw character series, the first being ‘The Puppet Show’ which I loved. I’m on the blog tour for this book in a week so more then, but for now, I loved it! 5 stars.

‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern – this book has been on my shelf for years, and the publication of Morgenstern’s second novel ‘The Starless Sea’ spurred me on to finally read it. I’ve seen some very mixed reviews for this book, I am definitely on the loved it team. Gorgeous, rich language, an enchanting circus and fascinating group of characters. 5 stars.

‘The Beautiful’ by Renee Adhieh is a YA fantasy novel about a young girl running away from a traumatic experience, who arrives in 1872 New Orleans in an attempt to escape. The city and its inhabitants have other ideas. I quite enjoyed this for the sheer storytelling fun. 3.5 YA stars, nearly 4.

‘The Queen of Nothing’ by Holly Black – this is the final book in the ‘Folk of the Air’ series. Overall, a fun ending to the story (or shall I say a very cheesy ending), it felt shorter and less developed that I think the final book should have been. I would have liked a little more time spent on some developments; there was also an abrupt and dismissive end to one of the important characters and another character seemed to add oddly – I think her overall story arc needed more care. However, for most readers I think the main reason to read and enjoy this series was the relationship between Cardan (I still can’t cope with the tail – lol) and Jude… so just about 4 YA stars for this.

‘The Keeper’ by Jessica Moor is a 2020 thriller release. It centres around a women’s refuge and, what seems to be, a suicide. There’s a police investigation, an insight into the refuge and a journey into the past; this is a disturbing story of male power and control with twists. 4 stars.

‘The Guest List’ by Lucy Foley is another 2020 release from the writer of the successful ‘ The Hunting Party. This book has a very similar style to her first book, and some coincidences too many for me, however there’re lots of positives about it as well. Full review will follow before publication. Just reaches 4 thriller stars.

‘The Forbidden Promise’ by Lorna Cook. This is published in March 2020 and is about two women decades apart, one in 1940 and the other in 2020. Both centre around their experiences at Invermoray House in Scotland. I really enjoyed this, a great way to spend Sunday afternoon. 4 stars.

‘The Widow of Pale Harbour’ by Hester Fox is more romance than thriller and it was okay. You get a isolated and mysterious widow; small town gossip and hatred; a new minister with secrets of his own and a murder. 3 stars.

‘The Memory Wood’ by Sam Lloyd. This is a Feb 2020 release and despite finding this a difficult read (child abuse and abduction themes) it was enjoyable. A book that plays with your perceptions; a clever, challenging thriller read. 4.5 stars.