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!

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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

 

All Through The Night (Detective J.T. Ellington #2) by M.P Wright ***Blog Tour*** — bytheletterbookreviews

Today I am delighted to be the next stop on the blog tour for All Through The Night. This is the second novel in the Detective J.T Ellington series. Heartman is the first novel in the series and you can read my thoughts by clicking here. Book Description: Heartman’s J T Ellington returns… “It’s quite […]

via All Through The Night (Detective J.T. Ellington #2) by M.P Wright ***Blog Tour*** — bytheletterbookreviews

Gunnhildur’s Travails – Thin Ice

I am continually honoured in the presence of genius in the group of Nordic noir lovers of which I am part.  This genius sources in Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway even Derbyshire, and, in this case, Hampshire.

The latest tale from this stable is the excellent Thin Ice from Quentin Bates. A local, homegrown talent who continues to excel with his police procedurals about Gunnhildur an officer in the Reykjavik CID.

However, this isn’t a traditional Whodunit as we start with the bad guys and follow their escape when they car-jack a mother and daughter when their getaway driver fails to be at the rendezvous. In parallel with this Gunnhildur battles with the trials of her private life. Her son has now settled with one of his girlfriends and rekindles his relationship with his now-dying father much to her dismay. Along with this, she is troubled by her two grandchildren sired by her son. The getaway driver is then found dead in a fire. Is this accidental?

The pace switches between the criminals, as a long-standing, habitual, criminal and a monster of a man and his side-kick, who doesn’t have a sheet, whilst the main bad-guy has a sheet as long as his and his sidekick’s arm. The former continually waves a gun at his captives and is unafraid to use it. The alternate thread is following Gunnhildur and her colleagues trying to track down the missing women.

The atmosphere and emotion are diverted by one of the captives, as the daughter of the pair becomes involved with the not so bad sidekick  – in this context you could call it ‘Rekjavik Syndrome.’ This adds to the suspense in the story as it leads to an unexpected outcome as a surprise as she – the daughter turns out to be as conniving and deceitful as the criminals themselves.

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I’d made a concerted effort to read all the prior novels before starting Thin Ice, as I love reading in sequence, having read Frozen Out when this blog tour was announced and was invited to contribute. As a result, of this, I had missed out on some story line and even questioned the writer about continuity who pointed me to the two novella, WinderLude and Summerchill which I read in parallel – these filled in some blanks on Gunnhildur’s family story.

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I really enjoyed reading all of these novels and I do wonder with excitement what is next for Gunnhildur. Will she get that promotion? Will her family life settle down?

Watch out for the next in the saga, but in the meantime Thin Ice stands alone as a great crime story, filled with the atmosphere and coldness that is Iceland-Noir.

I highly recommend it and please follow the rest of the blog tour both backward and forwards.

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Credits and references  – Quentin Bates – Author Page

Thin Ice Thin Ice (Gunnhildur Mystery)

Cold Comfort Cold Comfort (Gunnhildur Mystery Book 2)

Chilled to the Bone Chilled to the Bone (Gunnhildur Mystery Book 3)

Cold Steal Cold Steal (Gunnhildur Mystery Book 4)

Winterlude Winterlude (Gunnhildur Mystery)

Summerchill Summerchill (Gunnhildur Mystery)

 

Missing in Malmo by Torquil MacLeod

Another great novel in the Anita Sundstrom series. I love this book – couldn’t stop reading it other than when my eyes gave up. I can’t wait for the next one which is due through my letter box just after Easter. 

Following on from her successes in the previous two novels set in Malmo, Anita investigates the disappearance of an heir-hunter from the UK.

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The man she loves (but won’t admit to him) is still in prison for the murder in the first book but she still visits him on the pretext of getting to the bottom of the murder he committed in England but she is reluctant to do anything about it as he would be sent back to the UK; her ex-husband turns up looking for his young student girlfriend who he unofficially reports to Anita as missing so she has two missing people – one official and one unofficial and as we know Anita can be maverick sometimes. Her son is back with her in Malmo but he’s not in the best of spirits.

Hakim is having trouble at home too – his sister is having arguments with their parents – this leads to some additional domestic intrigue when Hakim stays over at Anita’s whilst she is away working with a UK detective to try to track down the reasons why the heir hunter has been murdered – his body, missing a part of a limb, is washed-up in the Sound.

To add insult to injury the body of the ex-husband’s missing girlfriend also gets washed-up in the Sound – she has been raped and her apartment is pristine almost professionally cleaned and only the ex-husband’s prints are found in some places where others there is nothing for forensics to discover. Nordlund and Westermark are working on the murdered girl whilst, as I said Anita is over in England, working with local CID and meeting the heir hunter’s widow and trying to piece things together from what was left over – strangely, however, she is the victim of a burglary around the time of the discovery of his body.

This is a complex plot, the local detective has some baggage with a deputy chief constable whom they interview about the past crime – there was a diamond robbery some time ago which tracks back to the past and action in Australia where one of the culprits was killed by the main detective – the DCC, in fact, the closure of the case made his career. Whilst only one of the diamond heist gang is still alive in England, the other two have died but there is another twist – the hit-and-run of a local English guy.

Anita’s ex-husband is then arrested and charged with the girl’s murder but Nordland is not happy with something and starts digging again but it leads to an unhappy conclusion.

There is some personal and professional tragedy for Anita in this gripping novel but it does bring closure on both local and English fronts and an excellent climax. The culprits are found and in a gripping ending with Hakim finding the heir hunter’s murderers and Anita puts together what Nordland had found out and confront’s the real murderer.

You’ll need to read it – I highly recommend this book to any fan of good police procedurals and or course nordic crime.

Credits and references

Missing in Malmö: The third Inspector Anita Sundström mystery (Inspector Anita Sundström Mysteries Book 3)

Torquil MacLeod