Garnethill – Denise Mina

This is the first book in a great trilogy which I have to admit I did not read in order and wished I had! I read this one after the third but, still found it fairly easy to follow so would say they could be read as standalones. I really like this author both as a writer and a very approachable person. She really gets a grip on the dark side of Glasgow and it’s characters in the nineties. I lived in London at that time and the characters in the book are similar to the ones involved in the gangland society of the day I came across there! The main character, Maureen O’Donnell, feels there is no one she can trust when her married boyfriend is found murdered in her sitting room. The police think she did it, her lover’s wife, an MEP, blames her and her drunken mother, Winnie, constantly pressures her into the close relationship that Maureen no longer wants. She was sexually abused by her father leaving her with mental health problems but, none of her family believe that either. Her brother is the only family member she is in any way close to but, even he is a drug dealer associated with the sort of people Maureen just does not want to become involved with. Consequently, our heroine decides to set out on her own, sometimes with a little help from her best friend, Leslie, to get get to the truth. Of course they get into all sorts of scrapes on the way making the book very difficult to put down as you really want to know that Maureen will be alright despite the numerous obstacles put in her way by those determined to stop her!

Shattered Minds – Laura Lam

I really thought I wouldn’t like this book as it was in a different genre to the crime novels I usually read but, I loved it. It was really well written and, although the plot took place in a futuristic setting, there were some really grippping moments featuring good old fashioned shoot outs!  You could feel yourself getting into the fantasy of the world described. Some of it not too far from the way science is heading with brain mapping and implants! The basic idea of a small number of people battling against a huge company making money from  criminal activities was intriguing – something most of us would like to do perhaps. The main character, Carina, started off as something of a lost cause but came good in the end – in fact the whole theme of the book was the triumph of good over evil which we all love! Altogether a fantastic read!

Trumpet – Jackie Kay

I loved this book both for the prose like way in which it was written and the depth of the narrative. The writing style actually helped me to understand prose as I have always wanted to be able to write some myself but had never quite got to grips with it. The book is based on the true story of a jazz musician who lived her life as a man and I can only presume this was due to the prejudicial treatment of women in the world of musicians. I have come across this before in ‘The Singer’s Tale’. The story is written from several points of view – Millie ‘his’ wife, his son and a few others who were close friends so you really get a feel for how they all reacted when the trumpet player passed away. Millie endures an immense sense of loss and retreats to the Scottish Highlands to spend time alone with her memories which the author really helps the reader to understand. Their adopted son at first sees the revelation that his father was a woman as a way to make money by engaging with a journalist to write a book. However, he gradually realises that the truth really did not matter. I felt for the estranged grandmother who had not seen her daughter for some years but the fact that her grandson went to see her gave her a little comfort. All in all a marvellous book written with real feeling.

Black Summer – M W Craven

Another fantastic tale from this author featuring Detective Poe and his internet whizz sidekick, Tilly. Tilly has grown up quite a bit in this book but not so much that she has lost any of her disarmingly charming, unselfconscious ways! The case is a difficult one for them as it concerns a well known chef convicted of murdering his daughter until she turns up – or does she? The story weaves its way through many turns with Poe getting into his usual troubles on the way before his and Tilly’s dogged tenacity find the answer. The solution is quite complicated and must have taken hours of research by the author. Well done once again Mr Craven!

Th1rt3en – Steve Cavanagh

I found this to be a really enjoyable book with a slightly different Americanised style of writing and plot. As the blurb suggests there is a serial killer at large in New York city who manages to get himself on the jury presiding over the murders he has a part to play in. He manages this by getting rid of anyone who may direct the verdict away from the one he wants! Our hero is Eddie Flynn, con artist turned lawyer, who is not exactly a favourite of the NY cops which earns him a few beatings on the way to the truth. The tale takes many different paths along the way resulting in the reader doubting the accused is the perpetrator but exactly who is he? Will keep you guessing until the surprising answers are finally revealed!

Five Ways to Kill a Man – Alex Gray

This is number seven in the DCI Lorimer series but can quite easily be read as a standalone. The setting is atmospheric making Glasgow come alive almost as a character in it’s own right. In this book a murderer sets out on a killing spree but, as they use a different method for each victim it takes the police a while to figure out that they have a serial killer on their hands. As always, by this author, the police procedurals are well researched making for a very interesting read. The characters are well described so painting a picture of those involved for the reader in this tale of many twists and turns which keeps you guessing. The case and the killer move on through the pages until Lorimer realises that the killer is moving nearer to those closest to him and must pick up the pace of the investigation before it’s too late……..

The Singer’s Tale – Carol Grimes

I knew Carol many years ago and always admired her not only for her voice, which is fantastic, but her way of life too. I never realised what a troubled childhood she had so I suspect writing about it in her autobiography was a sort of catharsis for her. She was passed from foster homes to childrens homes and back again becuase her Mother simply didn’t want her. Even when Carol tried to return to her mother’s home many years later the door was very firmly closed in her face. The descriptions laid out in the book bring the places she led a sort of life – more of an existence really – alive in not the most pleasant of ways. The reader can really visualise what these places were like back in the fifties and try to understand how Carol as well as many other children like her learnt to survive. 
Music became Carol’s saviour as she grew into the talented woman she is today so, when she and others around her realised she could sing it brought new meaning to her life. As the tale unfolded it was good to‘meet’friends of mine from the old days in London during the late sixties and seventies particularly‘Beat’who was firstly my neighbour and then my friend for many years. It was through Beat that I met Carol when we went to her gigs. I always thought she was far too good to be performing in local pubs and clubs so wished I was back in my young journalistic days in Birmingham when I interviewed then wrote about up and coming performers. Sadly, Carol’s singing career was never destined to rise to the giddy heights that were so richly deserved due to deals and bands falling by the wayside with alarming regularity. 
This book just reaches the late seventies but I am sure we will hear much more in Carol’s planned sequel as her career is still going strong as I write this in 2019.

The Dry – Jane Harper

This is a fantastic novel by a debut author which keeps you enthralled right to the end. Set in the middle of an Australian drought the book is based around Aaron Falk’s return to his hometown for the funeral of his old teenage buddy, Luke Hadler, who is suspected of killing most of his family and then himself. Everyone is on edge due to the boiling heat which makes for a very tense background to the tale. On top of all this Falk is not exactly welcomed by the community as he was suspected of the murder of a teenage girlfriend of Hadler’s with Hadler as his only alibi, which most of the town had doubted and some actually knew to be false. As a consequence Falk and his father were run out of town so no one wanted, or even expected him to return even for his friend’s funeral.
From the start Falk, now a detective in Melbourne, has doubts about Hadler’s guilt and soon starts poking about trying to see if he can discover the real story behind the murders when he comes across the local cop, Raco, doing the same thing at Hadler’s property. Despite resentment from the community, which results in Falk’s car first being vandalised then being filled with manure, the pair continue to investigate the Hadler family deaths eventually reaching the truth.
I look forward to reading other books by this author of which there is a tantalising couple of chapters in the back of this one.

Original Sin – P D James

Once again I have gone back in time to one of the ‘cosy’ crime novels, in this instance, of P D James. The book tells the tale of Peverall Press an old publishing company which operates from Innocent House – a mock Venetian palazzo located on the banks of the River Thames. The details of life near the river add an air of mystery and intrigue to the fabulous descriptions that we are so used to from this author. The story starts with a suicide on the premises of an employee who has had her contract terminated by the new CEO, Gerard Etienne. Etienne wants to make changes to bring the firm up to date including the sale of the luxurious premises which has been owned by the Peverall family since the founding of the company. As if a body in the archive room isn’t enough the firm has been plagued with a series of pranks such as documents essential for a publication going missing then returned much too late to be of any help. These episodes reach a climax when Etienne is murdered and a snake draught excluder is stuffed in his mouth! The book is rather lengthy but still manages to be a page turner in true James’ style as the characters are well described so come to life as you read. Of course there is the wonderfully subdued detective, Adam Dalgleish, along with his sidekicks Kate Miskin and Daniel Aaron. Sadly Daniel comes into his own in a rather disastrous way during the dramatic ending which brings everything together finally revealing the killer’s motive.

In Servitude – Heleen Kist

This was an enjoyable read – well thought out with lots of unexpected twists and turns. It dealt with the death of the main character’s sister who turned out to be living a completely different life on the edge of organised crime which her family knew nothing about. The heroine, who for once was not a detective,  had to deal with blows coming from all sides some from the most unexpected places.  A gripping, unputdownable tale of a woman who manages to step up to the plate no matter what is thrown at her to come down on the side of good over evil!