A Sinner’s Prayer; M.P. Wright

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Saying farewell to the dark side doesn’t mean the dark side wants rid of you. And I was about to be reminded of that fact.

1970, St Pauls, Bristol. A new decade, and JT Ellington is determined it will be a quiet one. He’s stepped away from the private-eye game to scratch a living, respectable at last, as a school caretaker.

Still his nights are full of torment – guilt and ghosts that no prayers will banish but it’s not until the past comes calling in the unwelcome form of Superintendent Fletcher that JT’s resolve is truly tested.

Fletcher has a job for JT – and the hard-nosed cop can’t be refused. A young man, Nikhil Suresh, has disappeared hours before his wedding; rumours abound and his family is distraught. JT is to investigate.

With what feels like blood money in his pocket, JT is plunged deep into a demi-monde of vice, violence and forbidden passion. An extraordinary, malevolent enemy is intent on destroying him. Now – seeking survival and redemption – JT must play as dirty and dangerous as those who want him dead. buy it here credit for these words from Amazon

My words

I’ll miss J T Ellington as this is his swan-song (apparently) last of the books featuring our well loved Bajan ‘inquiry agent,’ as he likes to be known. A truly rich character from whence M P Wright conjured him I really don’t know.

The book opens with JT as a caretaker in a school earning a crust in a simple but mundane way so he can care for his adopted Chloe.

This book brings to the fore the reality that LGBTQ issues were about as much in the 70s as they are today but not under the same spotlight of course.  It brings up some old characters and some links back to the first book. He’s still seeing his aunt and uncle and despite his cousins demise in a past novel, there is an interesting twist in the tale.

Whilst this isn’t driving forward at the national speed limit as have been the last two it harks back to the first book in that JT is doing what he does best. He’s been effectively bribed back into action by an old copper to track down an Asian boy just before his arranged wedding after JT walks out of his job at the school after an unfounded accusation and finds the ‘offer’ from Fletcher just Hobson’s choice.

I love the book; the dialogue; I love the characterisations and the descriptions of the situations JT gets himself into along the way are really well described. I love the prose and the pace – M P Wright’s story telling is for me, excellent. I just love M P Wright’s written style.

So 5.5 stars out of 5 for this exciting and thoroughly enjoyable novel that I couldn’t put down (from opening the post to getting with a tear in my eye) to the last page.

Well done Mark; I look forward with high expectations to what will come out of your pen in the future and it has been a great pleasure of mine to be part of JT’s journey.

Thanks to Black & White for the preview copy and to Mark for the acknowledgement. It’s a pleasure to be part of the blog tour.

Catch the blog tour…..

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Our Little Secrets; Peter Ritchie

 

IMG_0603At a dark place in Edinburgh’s heart, secrets refuse to lie dormant.

At Police Scotland HQ, Grace Macallan has pitched up in Counter Corruption. But the demons of her past are never far behind.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s gangland is in turmoil. As a new breed of upstarts challenges the old criminal order, their battle for territory causes serious havoc.

Into the war steps DI Janet Hadden. Ambitious, hardbitten and addicted to risk-taking, she knows how to throw opponents off balance. But when she’s thwarted, Hadden seeks help from a notorious underworld fixer, a man who keeps secrets but always extracts a price.

Beset by violence and double-crossing, Grace is soon embroiled in a savage game of cat and mouse with colleagues and criminals alike. With all sides driven by dark desires, theirs is an endgame that will take Grace down unless she holds her nerve. Credit to the back of the book and Amazon Buy it here……

My words….

It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I finished Where No Shadows Fall, the fourth in the Grace Macallan series of crime thrillers.

I’d made the effort to read no 1 Cause of Death, as my pre-requisite minimum to find out the genesis of the characters. After WNSF I went to on read the 2nd Evidence of Death and 3rd Shores of Death and thoroughly enjoyed them both as they’re both excellent novels in their own right.

There is a continuing development of Grace’s character and life after Cause of Death the connections she makes in and out side of Police Scotland; her relationships with colleagues and journalists alike. Whilst we lose some people along the way we gain new ones who become part of the fabric of these novels. She doesn’t feature as much in this one as the others but as you’ll know she has changed her life and her role in Police Scotland

That doesn’t detract as the big-hitter for me is the way Peter Ritchie builds up the gangland characters; in their most fiendish and ultimately misguided genius – as we see time and time again in these novels their naivety; and we’re all saying to ourselves as we read – how can they possibly get away with this? Who would know this paradigm unless they’d been around the block chasing down these guys.

This isn’t a whodunnit; it’s how and when will the world fall in around them? Big Arthur Hamilton, his son-in-law Dominic Grainger and low-level criminals like Tonto – Davy McGill and plenty more I won’t mention.

Then there is the central protagonist DI Janet Hadden – I quote from the book…

A call from the head teacher and a tense meeting made Hadden’s parents realise their daughter was never going to be someone who loved easily or would be loved by others. …..their friends and acquaintances, whose common agreement was that Janet Hadden was a ‘strange yin’  

She threw herself into sports and martial arts.

So we jump forward to the present – she’s hit a ceiling in her career – what’s that down to? She’s cold and calculating so to get ahead she decides to cross the thin blue line to see if she can play both ends against the middle. She introduces herself to a successful criminal. This is where the book basically starts to develops.

I think she misses one vital thing – the criminals are doing what they do because they are fundamentally dishonest and can’t be trusted as far as even, she, a martial arts expert can throw them.

This isn’t a procedural either; we know what’s going on from 360 degrees throughout it’s just a question of when will their respective house-of-cards fall down.

This one gets my five-gold-star award because there’s a bloody good old fashioned yarn on these pages full of intrigue, murder, double-deceit, threat, violence and cunning at play from all angles in this page-turner which I read in double-quick time.

Fast-paced and gripping from start to finish I never wanted to put the book down and that despite my wife catching up on a very popular fantasy TV series whilst I read –  Peter Ritchie won for me, he’s my king beyond the wall (Hadrian’s of course).

my thanks to Peter Ritchie and Black & White for the preview copy; it’s always a pleasure and also an accolade to be actually quoted on the inside cover of OLS from my blog of WNSF. Keep them coming Mr Ritchie I am waiting ….. we are all waiting!

follow the blog tour …..

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Where No Shadows Fall: Peter Ritchie

Where No Shadows Fall by Peter Ritchie (7 February)
Peter Ritchie returns with the latest detective Grace Macallan thriller, Where No Shadows Fall. Detective Macallan’s life has taken on a steady pace; a career away from the front line has resulted in an easy 9-to-5 desk job. However, when she’s asked to review the suicide of Tommy McMartin, the once heir of Scotland’s most powerful criminal family, Macallan is set on a trail that threatens to expose more than the lies the departed took to their graves. For fans of Jo Nesbø, Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson.
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So in preparation for my blog of this book I read Cause of Death the first in the Grace Macallan thrillers before I started this one.
I wanted to understand her back story; what makes her tick and what brought her to Edinburgh. It seems that a lot of water has gone under the bridge since that book. The old characters are there however i.e. the retired Harkins is still around always good to have continuity. If you haven’t read the others I would also recommend them.
Ritchie writes a ‘stonking’ crime procedural! In fact one of the best writers I’ve read in the last five years of reading crime – my passion so I can claim to be critical and know my business.
So in this one she’s got into a desk-job because she has a family and likes the routine hours but in contrast it bores her silly – watching the clock to see when she can leave that desk. There maybe other reasons in the books in between this and the first but I need (and so do you) need to read them. You’ll know I maintain that reading stories out of order is like watching episode 4 of an 8 parter on TV – you don’t really know the whole story or as I call it ‘the big picture.’
Grace misses the adrenalin of being in the front-line; even the long hours and the unknowns – but then that’s part of the fun of being in that line of work and for us reading page-turners like When No Shadows Fall.
Tommy McMartin is dead and has been a long time but we know the story in the first part of the book – almost like a prologue then there’s a seven year gap!  Two crime gangs are battling for supremacy – one’s on the down and the other is on the up and when the rivalries reach a head we are into some exciting reading.
The upshot is that Grace is asked to investigate Tommy’s involvement in a murder and his subsequent death in prison and why they were never solved properly – was he setup – was someone in the inside of the investigation covering-up?  I am being rhetorical because you’ll have to read this excellent crime story for yourselves to find out. As you know I do TEASERS but not SPOILERS!
Conclusion ‘5 stars’ for Peter Ritchie – in summary this is better than the first and he is developing his oeuvre. Keep up the great work sir. Back to my reading and happy staying up nights to finish this one and catch-up on the backstory.  I love the setting Edinburgh the castle the history and the atmosphere.

Willow Walk by SJI Holliday

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The Book of the Blog

Following on from ‘Black Wood’ – ‘Willow Walk’ sees us back in the fictional Banktoun following Davie Gray investigating drug-related deaths amongst teenagers in the region for his colleague in CID – Malkie. Does Davie want to join CID at his age?

His private life overlaps this story in a big way when a woman is found badly wounded and Malkie thinks it’s someone Davie knows! When he goes to the hospital it turns out not to be the girl – Marie – that he’s been dating on and off, but they have a lot of similarities but one key identifier isn’t on the injured victim.

In parallel with this Marie is receiving letters from someone called Graeme. As the story unfolds we find out who the mystery letter writer is and when he turns up in Banktoun things get messy for Marie and for the rest of community especially in the location of the book’s title.

Davie is hot on the trail and has discovered a link between Marie and a missing mental hospital patient as well as being hot on the trail of the ‘drug’ pushers.

Overlapping all this is Laura from the first story – one of Davie’s karate students and her escapades with a boy – a rite of passage for her, leading to her playing a part in the conclusion of the mystery letter-writer – when it all goes to mayhem.

I wont say anymore about the plot as I will spoil it.

My Thoughts

I was, I must admit, initially, a little dissapointed that not all of the main characters from Black Wood were featured but as Davie is the copper in the mix he is central to Willow Walk even more than he was in Black Wood. This makes Willow Walk a standalone if you haven’t read Black Wood, but my followers will know I like to read in order.

This is another excellently written page-turner from Susi. A true nail-biter.

I’d read the first in a matter of days despite having a day job and read this one in a similar time frame, consuming hundreds of pages sometimes in one sitting. That speaks volumes for me about the fluid way in which the narrative flows, alternating between Davie and Marie and ‘the letters’ she receives. The letters that keep appearing in the novel add to the ultimate creepiness of this story.

I highly recommend this chilling novel – it has suspense, thrills and it gave me the creeps. A thoroughly good read. 5 Stars for Willow Walk

Credits

SJI Holliday 

Black & White

Laura at B&W for my review copy of Willow Walk which started me on the Banktoun trail and introduced me to Susie’s work

 

Willow Walk – as I said in a recent post on social media “if it’s half as good as Black Wood we’re in for a treat”.

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watch out for the Blog Tour in June for the paperback release. In the meantime this is now out on ebook at the following page (if you’re not already there of course.)

Willow Walk eBook 

Black Wood is also on eBook, Print and Audio Download too!

Black Wood by SJI Holliday

Moving to the north, in fact, Scotland and Banktoun a small, close-knit community where everyone appears to know everyone else and this is fueled by the town gossip monger Bridie.

I read this having received a review copy of Willow Walk (my thanks to Laura at B&W) which I am now reading in earnest to follow the lives of the characters from Black Wood.  

I have to add this isn’t my normal reading as I tend to do police procedurals so approached it with some reticence but it had me gripped and my first session got me well past page 100 as I just couldn’t put it down and ended up on the settee into the early hours. 

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The Plot

There are a lot of mysteries in this excellent thriller that kept me gripped and reading – I completed it in less than a week which is a challenge sometimes with my other commitments. 

Why is Claire in a wheelchair?

Why is Jo on medication?

Who is Jake? Why is he so devoted to Claire?

Why does Scott split up with Jo which forces her to move out and into her friend Craig’s flat ?

Why does she then run off to her late grandmother’s cottage – Black Wood?

Who is the stranger that comes into the bookshop where Jo works?  

Why do the locals think a witch lived in Black Wood cottage?

Then there’s Pete who see’s things from his house but his father doesn’t want him to talk to Davie Gray. 

Davie Gray – the local police sergeant influenced by ‘mod’ culture who rides a motor scooter when he’s not in a panda car. He’s troubled by the threat of closure of his police station now that Police Scotland has been formed and there are rationalization plans all over. In addition to this someone is frightening girls down at ‘The Track’ a place where the teenagers go for illicit drinking, smoking weed and dalliances. 

Jo thinks she knows the stranger and is determined to find out who he is and what he is up to? 

We also see the story from Davie’s perspective too as he struggles to deal with the many facets of this excellent read. 

My thoughts

Susie’s (SJI) great novel is the first of the Banktoun trilogy and I think deals with people’s interpersonal relationships and feelings and fears in a sympathetic way.

I very much enjoyed this read and the way that the plot and mystery are maintained is refreshing!The events of the book are played out in a very clever way swapping backward to times when Jo and Claire were themselves teenagers and the strong narrative introduces a ‘boy’ in the past as we see the story from his perspective and also from Claire’s and Jo’s at different stages in the story. The main character, however, is Jo and we see most of  the current day events from her angle. It’s a very complex plot that weaves between different people and the past and present. It’ll keep you on your toes throughout.

I can’t recommend Black Wood enough as it sets the scene for the trilogy but it’s also an excellent stand-alone thriller.

Credits

SJI Holliday 

Black & White

Laura at B&W for my review copy of Willow Walk which started me on the Banktoun trail and introduced me to Susie’s work

watch out for the follow-up but in the meantime, there’s a Davie Gray short story available free from the following link Wrack Line

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Willow Walk – as I said in a recent post on social media “if it’s half as good as Black Wood we’re in for a treat”.

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watch out for the Blog Tour!

All Through the Night by M P Wright

JT is on the run ‘All Through the Night and there are a lot of long tough nights in this excellent follow-up to Heartman by M P Wright. 

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First, my great thanks to Laura at Black & White for sending me this review copy and introducing me to JT Ellington and of course M P Wright (MPW).

As soon as I received All Through The Night (ATTN) and realised it was a follow-on I ordered Heartman from that well know online bookstore.

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I read most of Heartman on holiday in a sunny and warm climate – not sadly Barbados from where JT Ellington originates in the 1960’s.

He comes to England and Bristol at the height of endemic racism where, as is really well described by MPW, JT can’t enter some bars or pubs without getting looks from the indigenous population because of his colour.

Let me point out before I go too far in this blog that Heartman and ATTN are readable as standalone novels but actually part of a planned trilogy. You don’t have to read them in order but I am a big advocate of reading books in order, not publication chronology but storyline timeline as I love to know the back-story. If you don’t read Heartman first enough of JT’s back-story is explained to not spoil the main plot but it does give away some of the outcomes of Heartman; I will let you decide how you approach this challenge.

I started reading ATTN in the same warm climate, then finished it just this weekend gone in the comfort of my own home in the warmer than I left for holiday south coast of England, but still cold compared to Barbados.

The Book of the Blog

ATTN starts with a prologue in US AirForce transport plane where a suspicious cargo is being transported which ends with two unexpected happenings.

We then switch to Bristol when JT is now an established ‘Enquiry Agent’ doing those things people don’t want the police involved in and naturally he accepts all kinds of work to keep the wolves from the door; in fact, he probably gets a lot of his work from the black community so is surprised when a white female arrives in his office with a lot of money and asks him to find a missing black doctor of dubious morals. He has stolen from her employers and wants JT to ask the doctor ‘for the truth.’ The plot now opens up into the need for JT to go on the run with what he finds. The story takes him away from Bristol and as he moves around he leaves a wake of violence amongst those close to him and those who help him along the way.

My thoughts

ATTN isn’t the typical book I read, usually, I read police procedurals when I’m reading crime. This is a Chandler type novel; I believe ATTN has also been compared to ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’ which gives you an example of the pace of the narrative. It’s written from JT’s perspective – all through the book – you are dragged along with him in cars, caves, mine shafts and nighttime chases to evade those chasing him.

I have to admit that I had to put ATTN down at some points because the tension in the plot as he races around trying to evade the bad guys and keep them from the Truth was sometimes too much for my blood pressure. I think this boils down very simply to the strength of the narrative – it makes you feel as though you’re there with JT and under the same threat as he is.

I also like the feeling of menace, isolation, and separation in ATTN (and Heartman.) This is also brought about by the strength of the narrative, the attention to detail and also because of the decade in which they are set – there are no mobile phones, no fax machines, no internet, the technology isn’t there although JT and his cousin do get to use an ‘old fashioned’ cassette recorder. Simply finding a telephone and using it can sometimes lead you into unexpected danger.

I can’t wait for the next one The Reckless Coffins I think it’s called which MPW is writing as a write and as with all best-laid plans, there will be a fourth instalment The Rivers of Blood – taking a leaf out of the style of the late lamented Douglas Adams, perhaps?

I love ‘JT’ Ellington as a character – another human being with baggage, a damaged soul with no reason to do what he does but he can’t see wrong being done to people and wants to do the right thing. He is another character that has become part of my psyche.

I highly recommend ATTN to anyone that loves a gritty and bloody, no holds barred novel; a novel for anyone who isn’t squeamish – this is not for the faint-hearted – and despite the trail of destruction ATTN does have a happy ending!

We all love those.

Credits….

Laura Nichol

Black & White

M P Wright

Joseph Tremayne Ellington Books

Post script …. I’ve discovered some additional ‘JT’ reading since publication how remiss of me but here they are ….

Standing In The Shadows With The Ghost Of Emmett Till: A J T Ellington Mystery

Wendell Patin’s Pork Pie