**Blog Tour** Unforgivable by Mike Thomas #Review & #GuestPost @ItDaFiveOh @BonnierZaffre

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Today I’m thrilled to be the next stop on the Unforgivable by Mike Thomas blog tour. Not only do I get to share my review for this thrilling book, but I also have a fabulous guest post from the author about the places that inspired the locations in Unforgivable. Interestingly enough my son and his wife had their wedding photographs taken in Roath Park one of the settings the author mentions.

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My Cardiff: the places that inspired locations in ‘Unforgivable’

It’s safe to say I know Cardiff like the back of my hand.
The nice regions and the dodgy areas, the best route to take to avoid rush hour traffic, the lanes and parks and alleys where gangs from rival estates used to meet for a rumble on a Friday night (Birdies Lane, if you must know). Where you can get stolen electrical equipment for a very low price. Where you can get a good kicking just for walking into the wrong pub.

I worked the city for twenty years, first as a uniformed officer then with stints on CID before moving on to drugs teams and other plain clothes work where I’d follow heroin dealers to Bristol and not see my own bed for three days. Finally – when my first novel was published and I knew I was on my way out of The Job and the hierarchy didn’t really know what to do with me – I found myself in the Operations Room working as an – haha – Intelligence Officer.

If you want a guided tour – warts and all – of the Welsh capital, I’m your man. And that knowledge was one of the reasons I decided to set the MacReady novels in the city. Also, London has its fair share of fictional cops and I felt Cardiff, bar a few novels, wasn’t really getting a look in. I wanted to redress the balance a little.
So what are the locations that appear in ‘Unforgivable’?

St. David’s – huge, sprawling and full of Shiny Things You Will Want, this shopping centre – or mall, if you must – has grown and been added to and modified extensively over the decades, and has become a colossal ode to commerce. Everything you want – and quite a lot you don’t – can be found under its roofs, and its food court is where things take a sudden, nasty turn in the book. I used to work here as a late-teenager at John Menzies (remember those stores?) where I would lump myself behind the counter of the music section, rolling my eyes at customers’ terrible purchases – Duran Duran, heaven forfend! – and making sure Depeche Mode’s output was at the forefront of every display. They are the greatest band in the world, after all.

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Fairwater – tucked just west of the city centre is this sprawling, leafy suburb where MacReady and the team carry out a property search after they’ve arrested their bad guy. In real life I worked in the building adjacent to the police station – that aforementioned Intel Officer role – until I quit for good. A busy ‘nick’, Fairwater Police Station is also uglier than ugly, and I describe it in the novel as ‘a mixed orange-brick and prefab square lump that resembled a hideous layer cake, and which MacReady assumed had cut the value of the surrounding properties by at least half when it was built.’ This is entirely correct and I refuse to describe it otherwise. So there.

Park Place – when I were a lad, and when Cardiff’ had pretty limited places to go of an evening, Park Place just off the main pedestrianised shopping drag was the epicentre of all the fun for a few good years. ‘Brannigans’ bar (now ‘Jongleurs’ comedy club), and around the corner the superclub ‘Zeus’ attracted thousands of punters from all around South Wales, where we revelled in this new-fangled tunesmithery of ‘Britpop’ (and, of course, ‘Cool Cymru’). ‘Zeus’ is replicated in ‘Unforgivable’ for an important scene, and it was lovely to dredge up all those memories. Apart from the time I accidentally set fire to a girl’s leggings while I was trying to impress her with my cigarette lighter-wielding skills. Turns out polyester is really flammable. Who knew?

City Hall – the heart of the capital’s bureaucratic and judicial area, a place of ornate gardens and Portland Stone edifices and the imposing Crown Court, and a prime choice for weddings and University graduation ceremonies. It’s also the scene of several foot chases in my career, one of which ended up with me falling in a very nice pond. My protagonist, MacReady, has a similar chase at one point in ‘Unforgivable’ but manages to avoid the watery mishap…

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Roath Park – locally famous, this pretty sliver of water and greenery just north of the city centre has a boating lake, clock tower, enormo-conservatory and ornamental gardens, and is something of a rite of passage for children who descend here en masse in school holidays to slide down its notoriously bumpy slide and get chased by irate swans. It features briefly in ‘Unforgivable’ during a vehicle pursuit. It is also where, as a five year old bored of her whining, I threw my infant sister into the water while we were out in a rowing boat. Fun times!

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The UHW – the University Hospital of Wales, or ‘The Heath’ to Cardiffians. As a copper you spend an inordinate amount of time in hospitals – sitting with injured prisoners, dealing with sudden deaths, removing brawling drunks from A&E – and the UHW was my home from home at certain points in my career. MacReady and his colleagues have to deal with the terrible aftermath of the bombings at the market and mosque in The Heath – but it is a nameless, injured young woman who leads him to discover there is more going on in the city than the police first realised. Woo, excitement!

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Book description

Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation.
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside.
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . .

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . .

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman.

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.

IMG_2357 I didn’t realise Unforgettable was the second book in the MacReady series, if I’m honest I’m not one for jumping ahead in a series as I fear I might have missed something, and although it’s obvious that DC Will MacReady has issues that pertain to the previous book I still think Unforgettable made for an extremely gripping standalone. It’s pretty standard to have a detective in a crime thriller with issues and MacReady is no different, his personal life is one huge disaster but I still found him to be an interesting character. The commaradie amongst his fellow work colleagues added just the right amount of “gallows” humour to add.

Unforgettable begins with a “bang” literally when a bomb detonated in a busy Souk in the middle of Cardiff causes massive devastation as you can well imagine. We only have to pick up a newspaper or turn on the news to see events like this are very sadly part of our times, so the opening chapters were terrifyingly credible and shocking. What at first appears to be a racially motivated attack soon becomes something much more complex and Unforgettable made for a gritty fast paced read.

There are numerous strands to Unforgettable the bombings, a vicious knife attack, a group of Asians on trial for the vicious assault and murder of a young white male, all these events appear to be unrelated but are they? Well here’s where the author deftly leads the reader through the police investigation, revealing clues and red herrings aplenty.

Mike Thomas own career as a policeman adds authenticity to Unforgettable, the investigation, the dynamics within the team all give the reader insight into the workers of an investigation. You can help but feel the same frustrations that MacReady and his team have to endure on a daily basis. Fast paced and fraught with tension I found Unforgivable to be a “white knuckle” read, covering a very frighteningly credible topic. Action packed and filled with intrigue Unforgivable combines police procedure with a powerful and thrilling plot making for a throughly gripping read.

Buying link: Amazon UK 🇬🇧Print Length: 400 pages

Publisher: Zaffre (27 July 2017)

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Mike Thomas was born in 1971 in the Welsh town of Caerphilly, famed for being the birthplace of comedian Tommy Cooper, its ‘deliciously’ salty cheese, and its castle with a tower which allegedly leans at a sharper angle than the more celebrated one in Pisa.

His teenage years were spent breakdancing, spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks and just about staying on the right side of the law, until his early twenties when, inexplicably, he joined the local constabulary and began locking people up for spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks.

“…inexplicably, he joined the local constabulary and began locking people up for spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks…”

While working as a plod in Wales’ capital city of Cardiff, Thomas continued with his childhood passion: writing. As a freelance he produced articles for local newspapers, various websites and national travel magazines, while in 2007 he was one of the winners in the annual Rhys Davies Short Story Competition organised by Literature Wales. After completing a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Wales between 2007 and 2009, Thomas published his debut novel, Pocket Notebook, in 2010 with William Heinemann/Penguin Random House.

The author was on the prestigious list of Waterstones’ ‘New Voices’ for that year, while Pocket Notebook was longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year and optioned for television by Carnival Films, the producers of Downton Abbey. His second novel, Ugly Bus, was released by Heinemann in 2014 and is currently in development as a six part television series with the BBC. Both novels deal with the uglier side of policing.

“…He currently lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife and children…”

Thomas left the police in the spring of 2015 and grew his hair and a pathetic attempt at a beard. He currently lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife and children. Alongside chopping wood, cementing crumbling house walls and trying to find somewhere that sells his beloved Marmite, he continues to write articles and web pieces for a variety of sites and publications, and is contracted to London’s Bonnier Publishing for three new novels, the first of which – Ash and Bones – was released August 2016. The second in the series, Unforgivable, is due for publication in the summer of 2017.

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Links to author: Website Twitter Facebook

Follow the Unforgivable blog tour ………..

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Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent #BookReview @lizzienugent

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Book description

“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”

So begins Liz Nugent’s astonishing debut novel—a chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of the nature of evil.

Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbours, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.

IMG_2357Imagine if people you met through life, neighbours, family, and friends narrated the story of your life would it make for an interesting read? Or would it make a disturbing one? That’s precisely what happens in Unravelling Oliver. You know from the first chilling sentence “I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her” where Oliver is talking about Alice his devoted wife that he isn’t a pleasant man, but I never expected such a shocking and gripping unveiling of a sociopath, as seen from different people’s viewpoints. The author expertly “unravels” the psyche of a very damaged Oliver in a gripping read that I read in one sitting.

One night Oliver beats Alice and she ends up in a coma. What happened to make Oliver a handsome, charismatic, and successful author do something so terrible? Various characters narrate Oliver’s story friends, family and acquaintances even Oliver himself. Slowly layer by layer each characters story “unravels” Oliver and the events that have shaped him into the person he has become.

This is a relatively short book at 240 pages, but even if it had been much longer I would still have had to read it in one sitting. Unravelling Oliver isn’t a fast paced novel by any means as it’s character led, but don’t let that put you off as it’s the extraordinary characters that make this novel such an exceptional read. Every character has their story to tale about Oliver some more chilling than others, Liz Nugent has managed to breathe life into each and everyone of her characters, and it was extraordinary reading how one person could shape some many people’s life’s in the worse possible ways.

I couldn’t help but have some empathy for Oliver as you learn more about him you realise how damaged he is, there are so many strands to Oliver, his childhood, his marriage and his relationships which made for a throughly compelling read. I found Unravelling Oliver to be a real page turner, an intelligent psychological thriller with heart. I’m ashamed to say this is the first book I’ve read by Liz Nugent and I’m kicking myself as it’s obvious the author is one very talented author.

Buying links: Amazon UK 🇬🇧 Amazon US 🇺🇸

Paperback: 240 pages

Publisher: Penguin (9 April 2015)

 

Friend Request by Laura Marshall #BookReview @laurajm8

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Book description

When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past she feels sick.
Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.

Because Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life knowing herself responsible for Maria’s disappearance. But now Maria is back. Or is she?

As Maria’s messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress, to try to piece together exactly what happened that fateful night. But when another friend’s body turns up in the woods outside their old school, Louise realises she can’t trust anyone and that she must confront her own awful secret to discover the whole truth of what happened to Maria . . .

IMG_2357Friend Request deals with a very relevant and current subject, and one we all pretty much use in our daily life’s, the addictive but dreaded Facebook, we all reveal details of our life, what we ate, where we went on holiday, things we’ve done, but do you ever think about who could be reading your posts, looking at your photos without your knowledge? Are they really who they say they are? Well once you’ve read this book the paranoia will kick in and I’m sure like me you will be checking your privacy settings and friends list time and time again!

When Louise Williams receives a friends request on Facebook, a normal day occurrence for most of us, but for Louise it’s not everyday you get a request to befriend someone who has supposedly been dead for over twenty years! It’s apparent from the start that Louise is hiding something regarding Maria’s disappearance, the what and why’s are intricately revealed layer by layer in this tense psychological thriller.

Friend Request switches between the present and 1989 which reveals the events leading up to Maria’s disappearance, by using this ploy the author heightens the suspense and there’s a undercurrent of disquiet and foreboding running throughout this novel. As Maria’s messages escalate Louise is forced to examine what happened all those years ago, memories that she was preferred to keep buried.

At this point I must admit I found it hard to like any of the characters in this novel, now normally this can spoil the read for me, but fortunately it actually heightened my enjoyment as I couldn’t help but hope some of the characters would get “their just deserts”. Friend Request is a chilling psychological thriller that explores many relevant issues, with an highly original plot and taut with suspense Laura Marshall has written a very accomplished debut psychological thriller. A great read for the summer and one I would highly recommend.

Buying links:    Amazon UK 🇬🇧      Amazon US 🇺🇸

Print Length: 384 pages

Publisher: Sphere (27 July 2017)

 

Those That Remain by Rob Ashman #BookReview @RobAshmanAuthor @bloodhoundbook

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Book description

The heat of the Florida summer is relentless. Lucas is coasting to retirement in a mundane Florida police precinct. His world falls apart when a brutal serial killer codenamed Mechanic lands on his patch.

Three years ago they thought Mechanic was dead. But Mechanic is very much alive and the savage ritualistic murders continue. No family is safe from the threat of slaughter at this sadistic killer’s hands.

Mechanic is always one step ahead and Lucas is forced to operate outside the law.

Who can he trust?

The shocking truth is more terrifying than Lucas could ever imagine … and he has to put his life on the line to get it.

IMG_2298I think I have just found myself a new crime thriller author and series that will be going straight on my “must read authors list”. What a gripping book Those That Remain turned out to be. I do love American based crime thrillers they always seem so much darker and twisted. To say I loved this novel is an understatement it’s probably one of the best debut crime thrillers I’ve read this year in fact. Rob Ashman’s superb writing drew me in from the first chapter and I’m sure I spent much of my time reading this book in stunned silence (not a mean feat, I can tell you!).

I’m a sucker for a well depicted serial killer and the Mechanic certainly fits the bill. Oh my goodness what a character the author has created one of the most intriguing serial killers I’ve read about in a long time, they are one twisted individual and to their motives for the killings, I couldn’t help having a smidgen of sympathy for them. The Chapters from the killer give you insight to this very troubled and damaged character, from these chapters I felt like I was in the Killers head looking into the darkest and most troubled corners of the human mind which made for a blood chilling read and a couple of restless nights sleep. The crimes committed are gruesome but in the authors defence these scenes never felt gratuitous within the context of the story

Those that Remain has so many great characters I especially liked Lucas’s he’s not you typical stereotype detective for a start he’s counting down the days to retirement, so I found his character a refreshing change from the “kick ass” Detectives that are the norm in many a crime thriller. I’m not going to go into plot details as I would hate to give away spoilers, but what I will say is this novel certainly made for a gripping and unpredictable read that will chill you to the bones. In my opinion it’s one of those books you just don’t want to put down as each chapter leaves you desperately wanting more, it moves along at a fast pace with so many twist and turns my head was spinning.

There were so many elements that made this book an exciting read, unique characters, an intricate plot, and a dash of dark humour. I was extremely intrigued by the profiling side of things, who knew there were so many different types of serial killers? I have one question for the author “why, oh why did it take you so darn long to get published?” I just love it when a book leaves you wanting more, and I couldn’t contain my excitement when I found out I’m not going to have too wait long for the second book in this series as it’s published on the 13th July 2017. If you are looking for a new crime thriller to read then look no further than Those That Remain I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Buying links:    Amazon UK 🇬🇧       Amazon US 🇺🇸

Print Length: 303 pages

Publisher: Bloodhound Books (22 Jun. 2017)

 

 

The Serial Killer’s Daughter by Lesley Welsh #BookReview @Bookouture

 

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Book description

Lesley Welsh sadly passed away in April but Bookouture are extremely honoured to be publishing The Serial Killer’s Daughter on 14th June.

Charmer, liar, father… Killer.

Suzanne’s life changes forever the day she receives a visit from Rose Anderson, the woman who has been living with her estranged father, Don.

Don is dead, but Rose wants Suzanne to have his possessions – including a series of intimate diaries and a mysterious collection of photographs of women.

To Suzanne’s shock, one of the photos is of her friend Sophie, who died ten years ago in an unexplained and devastating fire.

But Don only met Sophie once, on an unsettling visit he paid Suzanne just days before Sophie’s death… So why did he have a picture of her?

Unable to let Sophie’s memory alone, Suzanne begins to dig into her father’s life. What horrors is she about to unearth in his journals? And who is it that’s out there, watching her every move?

img_1258Oh my goodness what a dark and twisted read The Serial Killers Daughter by Lesley Welsh turned out to be. Gripping from the first page, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way to its shocking conclusion. The author has given the reader a roller coaster of a thriller that’s for sure, but this crime thriller is also a gripping story of the psychology of evil and the lengths people will go to meet their own needs.

Suzanne’s estranged father Don passes away. His girlfriend Rose wants Suzanne to have his possessions – including a series of intimate diaries and a mysterious collection of photographs of women, which leads Suzanne to start looking into her fathers past, what follows is a tense and a highly disturbing read. This novel does contain explicit scenes and language so definitely not one for the faint hearted but in the authors defence it’s in keeping with the plot and characters.

The author has created one of the most despicable and cold hearted psychopaths I’ve ever come across, they are the definition of evil, they made my skin crawl and my heart race, this is one book I wouldn’t recommend for a “bedtime read” unless you want nightmares. The constant sense of madness and evil bubbling away below the surface made this a highly compelling read.

I do have one small niggle I feel this book would have worked so much better with a different title, I would have enjoyed it slightly more if the mystery of Don could have been revealed without any preconceived ideas of the nature of the plot. On the positive side Lesley Welsh deftly manages to reveal Don’s secrets layer by layer, painting a chilling picture of the darkest corners of the human mind. The Serial Killers Daughter makes for a chilling yet engrossing read and if you like your crime thrillers dark, well they don’t come much darker than this one.

Buying links:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧     Amazon US 🇺🇸

Print Length: 343 pages

Publisher: Bookouture (14 Jun. 2017)

 

Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel #Bookreview @HALeuschel

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Book description

Five stories – Five Lives.

In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

There are five short stories:
The Narcissist
Tess and Tattoos
The Spell
Runaway Girl
My Perfect Child

img_1258Manipulated Lives is a very different read to my usual crime/thriller reads but never the less I was intrigued by the book description. Here’s the thing after spending years working in mental health I’ve always been intrigued by the human psyche and behaviour so the concept for Manipulated Lies fascinated me . What makes someone become a manipulator and more importantly how does someone find themselves caught up and damaged by a Manipulative individual?

In this collection of five short stories we meet the masters of manipulators, we also meet the victims ordinary people trying to lead normal life’s, there’s no specific gender, (although interestingly a high percentage of men are classed as manipulators) or age group, or characteristics that sets these victims apart. It literally could happen to anyone.

The five stories are all very different, each one gives a troubling insight into the workings of a manipulator, their ability to lack compassion and the devastating impact their behaviour has on their victims. Although each story is fairly short they certainly don’t lack depth, each one will stay with me for very different reasons. The Characters were an intriguing bunch and they were really well developed which took my by surprise as sometimes a short story doesn’t  give the author time to develop the characters.

The story that stands out for me is the third in the book The Spell, it features Sophie who unwittingly becomes entangled in the lives of a young boy and his father, both running from something or someone…it shows how a perfectly normal relationship between a couple can turn into something much darker and sinister. I’m not sure where or how but H A Leuschel manages to give such an incredible insight into the subject of manipulative behaviour, I couldn’t help but wonder was she writing from experience or has she researched the subject throughly?

Each story very much highlight the fact that anyone has the ability to be a manipulator, just like everyone has the potential to become a victim so Manipulative Lies not only made for a disconcerting read but a thought provoking one too. I’m not sure this book gave me all the answers I was looking for, but it certainly gave me a better understanding of the subject and made for a very compelling read.

Buying links: Amazon UK 🇬🇧       Amazon US 🇺🇸

Paperback: 272 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (28 Jun. 2016)

 

The Fourth Monkey by J.D.Barker @jdbarker #Bookreview #4MK

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Book description

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorised the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realise he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

img_1258Oh my god I absolutely loved The Fourth Monkey by J. D. Barker, what a deliciously dark and utterly gripping novel this one turned out to be. I’m the first to admit you can’t beat a good serial killer in a crime thriller (hmmm I’m not sure what a psychologist would make of that) but believe me when I say they don’t come more twisted than the  The Fourth Money (or 4MK as they are known) but it certainly made for a brilliant read. Masterfully written,  fast-paced thriller this novel made for a rivetting read.  I’m not going to go into plot details as I would hate to spoil the read for others and it’s definitely one of those “the less you know, the more thrilling the read”

The novel is told mainly from Detective Sam Porter POV and from 4MK’s diary. This diary tells the story of a serial killer, beginning with their childhood you learn of the events that shaped them into the evil and depraved monster they became. It was these chapters that I found the most unsettling they are seriously twisted and imaginative, to read how a small child turns into a psychopath serial killer made for a very disturbing and chilling read, but I found myself compelled to learn more about this sick individual. Yes it is pretty graphic in parts, but very much in keeping with the plot and characters.

Deviously plotted with twists galore this J.D. Barker has written a story that challenges and shock, he certainly  isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of what we expect. He writes with grit, enthusiasm and passion and manages to deliver on all fronts. The Fourth Monkey has been compared to 7even and Silence Of The Lambs, and I can see why, thanks to the plot, an unforgettable serial killer and scenes that would unsettle the most hardened crime thriller reader it really does have the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Highly recommended and I can definitely see why this novel is being billed as one of the most anticipated releases of 2017. 

Hardcover: 416 pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (27 Jun. 2017)

Links to pre-order:    Amazon UK 🇬🇧       Amazon US 🇺🇸

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I will be giving The Fourth Monkey the very prestigious Gold Star Award Rating. It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a good read, fantastic plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page.

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