Book Review: Next To Die by Neil White

Next-to-Die-HiRes-VisBrothers Sam Parker and Joe Parker seem to be at odds with one another. Sam is a detective, working to capture criminals and make the world a better place, whilst Joe is a criminal defence lawyer, working to help those same criminals escape conviction and custodial sentences. But in Next To Die intentions and motives are not always as dissimilar as they first appear.

When Ronnie Bagley requests Joe Parker defend him against charges of murdering his wife and baby, Joe comes running. He likes a challenge, and winning murder cases brings a lawyer notoriety. Elsewhere Sam is asked by the powers that be to spy on his brother, to try and find out anything that can ensure Ronnie’s conviction. Add to that a string of seemingly linked murders throughout Manchester and the Parker brothers have got their hands very much full.

Author, Neil White is a lawyer by day, crime fiction writer by night. He knows exactly what he’s writing about and his experience shines through in every chapter. But this isn’t a novel of tedious legal jargon which requires a reader wade through it. It’s small, beautifully observed details which paint legal scenes so brilliantly; outside of court lawyers are wearing smart, tailored suits, but defendants are dressed in cheap suits a couple of sizes too big for them.

There is another layer to proceedings as well: Ellie Parker. Joe and Sam’s younger sister raped and murdered on her way back from school fifteen years ago. Her brothers still feel immense guilt at not being able to save their little sister, and her memory taints everything. It’s this aspect of the book which supplies the emotional grunt, and the murder mystery which provides the addictiveness. Superb stuff.

Next To Die is available through Amazon UK now.

July 13, 2015Leave a comment

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July 4, 2015Leave a comment

Book Review: Dead Girl Walking by Sharon Sant

What happens after death? It’s that big something we all wonder from time to time, and a recurring theme in Sant’s work.

After nineteen-year-old Cassie dies with her family in a car crash, the answer to her big question is that she comes straight back. Eight hours after being pronounced dead Cassie wakes up on a mortuary slab. The rest of her family are not so lucky. Understandably, Cassie feels that the crash has taken everything from her, but she soon discovers that the accident has given her something new too. If Cassie touches a dead body she can see that person’s final moments, witness death from their perspective. It’s not long before a desperate police officer attempts to make use of Cassie and her new gift, enlisting her to help find an elusive killer of young girls.

With Sant so practised in constructing multi-dimensional and memorable characters it’s no surprise how real Cassie and damaged love interest, Dante feel. ‘I’m most horrible to the people I like,’ Cassie jests, and it’s true that she comes equipped with an acid tongue she’s not afraid to use. But under all the sass and edge Cassie is a caring, intelligent and, perhaps most importantly, relatable character. Scenes with her gran are so often touching, and her growing desire not to waste her second chance, despite the total collapse of her life around her, is endearing indeed.

Written in the first person, Cassie’s innermost thoughts colour the prose nicely. The writing flows exquisitely and there’s not a clunky moment in sight (rare for a book concerning such an emotionally isolated character). The supporting cast are another highlight, made up of an array of interesting individuals, some intent on helping Cassie, some intent on using her powers to their advantage. By the end of the book there is a real whodunit vibe and plenty of clever twists and turns to supplement the wonderfully nervous action.

Dead Girl Walking is available via Amazon UK now.

July 2, 20151 Comment

Book Review: Under My Skin by Zoë Markham

‘Inside we are all monsters …’ is the tagline of Zoë Markham’s debut novel, Under My Skin. But as the superb opening chapters leak tiny morsels of information, we see that it’s what’s on the outside that is forcing seventeen-year-old Chloe to cower in her new house, the heaters on full, the blinds tightly shut.

Under My Skin is a loose re-imagining of Frankenstein. Markham has taken the classic story – itself a groundbreaking tale of scientific caution – and reworked it into a contemporary young-adult thriller, heavy on elements of romance and suspense. The result is the story of a young girl, killed in a car crash along with her mother, brought back to life by her brilliant scientist father. The process has changed her though, and left her with a strange body and a ravenous need for protein. No feasting on the flesh of the living however, a big plate of bacon rashers or succulent chicken breast will do the job nicely.

As Chloe’s father works secretly to secure her long-term future at the local hospital, Chloe begins to tire of her isolation. She wants to get out of the house and do normal teenage things and this is where the book steps up a gear. As Chloe re-enters the real world suspicion creeps in (there are bad people after such a scientific marvel), but so too do normal teenage girl concerns like boys and fitting in.

At the heart of this book is the troubled relationship between Chloe and her father. Chloe’s father clearly loves her, but he’s done so many terrible things. How can Chloe ever forgive him? It’s a wonderful take on the often fractious relationship between teens and their parents, beautifully transmitted by Markham.

Under My Skin is available via Amazon UK now.

June 16, 2015Leave a comment