GOOD ME, BAD ME – Ali Land

Mum’s a serial killer, and even though I had you arrested, you’re still in my head. Day dream and nightmare. Just how much thicker is blood than water, Mum?

good-me-bad-meAnnie, whoops, I mean Millie, a fifteen year old, is with a foster family until after the trial. Head of the family, Mike, psychologist, is trying to prep Millie for the upcoming trial. He spends so much time and sympathy with her that his own daughter, Phoebe, plots Milly’s misery both at home and at school. Milly makes only one friend, a slightly younger urchin from a local housing estate, but even she becomes wary of the teenager under so much mounting stress.

Ali Land takes along to live in Millie’s head in a very scary, convincing way. The foster family, with caring gullible Mike, his pill-popping wayward wife, and betrayed daughter with her loyal bitchy friends, are all very real. The tension mounts inexorably as the trial gets nearer and the teenage schemes of revenge are hatched.


Ali Land

Some may suspect which way the cookie is going to crumble before it actually does, which could help steel a reader for the heart-banging climax, but those that don’t are in for a twist of note.

Book Details: Penguin – Michael Joseph. ISBN: 9780718182939

Thanks to Lorienne Brown, Marketing & Publicity,, for this review copy.

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Truth is in the eyes of the beholders. For every sliver of a broken mirror there is a slightly different reality.


The unsolved murder of psychologist Professor Joseph Wieber in Princeton in 1987 resurfaces when literary agent Peter Katz receives the introductory part of a manuscript.  Written by Richard Flynn, it introduces the main characters that interacted with the professor around the time of his death. Richard, Laura Barnes,the girl he is head over heels in love with and the psychologically damaged handyman, Derek Simmons.

This enjoyable who dunnit tale is told – and retold – in fragments, as Katz asks his friend, John Keller, an ex-journalist, to try to find the rest of the manuscript when Flynn dies. The bulk of the story is told by Keller who finally gives up and passes the baton to the retired detective, Roy Freeman, who was involved in the case twenty five years previously.



Each narrating character is warmly moulded and each sheds some fractured slivers of light as they and the peripheral figures who knew the professor or the suspects who might have had reason to take his life all contribute to the picture.

The story highlights the fallibility of memory and the conflicting interpretations of views focused on the same events.

Book Details: Century imprint – ISBN: 9781780895680

My thanks to Random House Penguin South Africa for this review copy.

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An excellently written serial killer thriller with an original plot and acceptably real characters. Highly recommended.

the-beautiful-deadIt would seem obvious that a TV crime reporter would find it difficult to remain grounded and unaffected by her close association with the brutal and ghoulish demands of her audience. Eve Singer needs to ramp up her involvement in order to satisfy a demanding director and save her job in a competitive world where she is threatened by aspiring wannabes as well as the other networks. She needs to be that much closer to the action, until there is blood spatter on her face and she not only realises that maybe she is too close and she and the killer are working together to get the publicity that he craves.

The killer himself is as much a fully explored character as is the woman he needs to bring his passion to life. Bauer goads his psyche to plausible reality; so much so that it could resonate with those who might think that the beautiful state of death is so desirable that it might be a favour to be bestowed on the worthy. Or the unworthy who get in the way…

The ruthless editor, the loyal cameraman, the despicable rival reporter; all are convincing pieces of the jigsaw. I started off by almost disliking Eve Singer for her reportative greed, but her internal battle for integrity eventually endeared me to her.

Gripping, feasible, and well written, this was a thoroughly satisfactory read.


Belinda Bauer

Book Details: ISBN: 9780593075517

Publisher – Bantam Press; Penguin Random House UK.


My thanks to Lorienne Brown, Marketing & Publicity Assistant, Penguin Random House South Africa for this ARC.



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CAST IRON – Peter May.

Could this be the last in the excellent Enzo Series? From skeletons in a lake to some in cupboards, the truth could kill this likeable determined investigatorCast Iron cover.jpg.

Enzo Macleod, a retired forensic expert living in France, had been set an almost impossible challenge of cold cases, the last of which involves Lucie Martin, whose bleached bones are discovered when a severe drought dried a lake and exposed her remains in what had been the deepest part. This suggested local knowledge, and to Enzo came the belief that this was not unsolvable. As he interviews anyone involved in the now nearly quarter-century old murder, from retired policemen to Lucie’s family, his own life and that of his family, become endangered.

Enzo is endearingly fractured in his personal life and relationships, and his choices have sometimes been terrible, but he has a determinedly loyal nature, reluctant to believe the worst in his intimates. In pursuit of his quarry, he is equally one track minded, a quality that will soon set the killers onto him with deadly fury.

If there is a problem with the fluidity of this tale, it is in the involved and convoluted backstory from the previous in the series. I think a reader’s chronological approach to the Enzo Series would be advisable to avoid confusion, but, this being my intro, I still enjoyed it immensely.


Peter May

Meet the latest PETER MAY fan. Me. And there is a lot of work from this prolific writer for me to seek out.

Thanks to Alice Geary of for the eCopy for review.


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OUR FATHERS – Karin Brynard.

More than a tight grip on the throat!

Our Fathers - Brynard.jpgIt is probably not a unique experience to read two thrillers at the same time, especially for thriller cowards like me. When the pace gets so hot that I have to take a break to stave off cardiac arrest, I sometimes pick up the next book in the review queue to read while pulse and heartbeat normalise.

OUR FATHERS was a bit like that, only in a single volume.

Detective Captain Beeslaar from South Africa’s Northern Cape is heading for Stellenbosch to look up his retired old friend and mentor, but arrives only just in time for the funeral. Local police Captain Vuyokazi Qhubeka enlists his reluctant help in tackling the murder of the wife of a local millionaire property developer, while the rich white man’s family, who have no faith in the black female cop, try to enlist his help in a private capacity. Qhubeka slyly manages to use their attempted manipulation to her own advantage.

Simultaneously, in the sprawling black city of Soweto, where Beeslaar’s ex-colleague and protégé, Sergeant Ghaap, who had himself transferred for the experience, is having severe regrets. On his way to his station to report for duty on foot due to the fact that his car has been stolen, he is given a lift by a team of “trackers” whose job it is to retrieve stolen vehicles. They know the warren of shacks and tracks very well, and it is with their cheerful, irreverent help that Ghaap slowly grounds himself and inserts his detective abilities into the search for a kidnapped pregnant woman, Beeslaar’s ex-girlfriend, and her small son.

Both stories are tense, gripping and entertaining; the one a small release for the other as the action flip-flops back and forth between the two.

Translated expertly from the Afrikaans by Linde Dietrich, it is far more than a pair of gripping thrillers. It is a mirror of the uneasy racial melting pot that is the New South Africa, where racism remains firmly entrenched in some quarters, but a slowly increasing respect and understanding reaches out a tenuous grip in others. There is no lack of humour, either.


Karin Brynard

While non-South African readers will probably find this a real strain on colloquial adjustment, locals may also be stretched to keep up with the slang/s influenced by several of the 11 official languages.

Trying to explain the title may be to introduce a spoiler or two, so I won’t bother. Speaking for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Or reads.

Reviewed honestly for, and Published by, Penguin Random House South Africa.



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DOUBLE ECHO – Francois Bloemhof

An Afrikaans writer of huge output, with 24 novels for adults under his belt, Francois Bloemhof’s writing shines even in translation. Or maybe Maya Fowler’s contribution is an enhancement? This is an intriguing play/novel with only half a dozen characters, a come-into-my-parlour-said-the-spider plot and some fatal attractions that could only lead to disaster. Ah, but who, exactly is the spider? And, how many flies?


Ex-cop Paul Mullan helps millionaire businessman Bernard Russell to change his car’s burst tyre in the pouring rain, and is invited to stay the night in his opulent mansion, Journey’s End.

Which is what it seems as if it is going to be, for a man who thinks he has nothing to lose, what with the disaster behind him that ripped his life apart.

Then there is a glimmer of light embedded in an apple of temptation, and he can’t help himself from reaching out for a bite…



Francois Bloemhof

The characters, being so few of them, have every chance of being moulded in convincing detail, which is a daunting task if you are going to keep the twists coming right up to the end. Nothing turns out as it seems. Which, for me, made it slightly hollow, not being even allowed a hint of those other character traits that would explain those total surprises.


Thank you to Dominique Le Grange [] for this review copy.



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In the SHADOW of the MOUNTAIN – Fergus Smith

More than a thriller, more than a crime story of manipulation and murder, this is a story of men learning how to lead and protect their comrades, while learning to kill other men. And more than that:

in-shadow-of-mount“The true scale of the impact politics has on modern military operations, from an individual mission to the grand strategy, is one the taboos of recent history. This book breaks that taboo with brutal clarity and should be as thought-provoking as it is enthralling. In many ways, this is a story which has needed telling since Kosovo.” James Clark, former Defence Editor, The Sunday Times

 A gritty tale of a young British officer learning his trade; receiving a troop of men already hardened by the Falklands War, or bruised by the dark occupation of a treacherous Northern Ireland. Or both. The Mountain is the weight of regimental tradition, of pride and expectation that looms over him. Match up or ship out.

Paul Illingworth’s job is all; it slowly squeezes his personal life into a disposable package as he struggles to fit in, to be accepted without condescension. To be respected without familiarity.

A wanted IRA killer flees across the Irish Sea to hide among the Irish community of England, still on a guidewire, still with a job to do. The shadow of killing a joy-rider by mistake while trying to trap the killer is a shadow that lies heavy on the regiment, but fate has plans to bring them back together…


Fergus Smith

Undoubtedly Fergus Smith has the tee-shirt, but more than that; he has the gift of conveying the fear of failure, the pride of achievement and the remorse of mistakes with a gut-twisting reality that makes the reader hold his breath, smile, or slam down the book for fear of a heart-attack.


As Shackleton’s Antarctic epic journey across the ice and his return to collect his team without a single loss of life is a monumental textbook on the subtleties of successful leadership, Fergus Smith’s first novel would not be out of place on the same shelf.

Thank you to the author for this, my personal, signed copy.


And there is more to come. His second, Sunrise in the Valley, has just been released.


Published by Headsail Books.


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NEVER GO ALONE – Denison Hatch

Denison Hatch has done it again. The second in the Jake Rivett Series is as riveting as the first.

never-go-aloneAs breathtaking, as heart-hammering and as page-turning, but there is also the skein of a love story threaded into the fabric as well. I’m sure this is not the last of jake Rivett, so it’ll be interesting to see how that develops.

As an undercover cop, Jake lives in the Underbelly of New York, and as an adrenalin junkie, that suits him, but his readers have to somewhat be that way inclined as well, just to follow him without getting serious cardiac probs! For me, nothing is as suspenseful as Undercover crime fiction, if the protagonist is a friend of mine. As any writer worth their salt should make him or her.

Denison Hatch

Denison Hatch

The plot – a handful of Xtreme Xplorers, from right down in the noxious sewers of the city to up on its towering skyline, involved in targeting the mega-rich properties of a ruthless land baron – is credible and gripping.  The characters live and breathe, the flow is continuous, but the suspense modulates like waterboarding with rests…

This frank review is thanks to the eEdition sent me by the author.

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HOME – Harlan Coben

Harlen Coben has a grip like a vice and more twists than barbed wire. HOME is a Myron Bolitar story, his no.11 in the series, but no exception to his high quality. Myron’s nephew, Micky Bolitar also plays a role, for those fans of the Young Adult series.

home-coverWhen kidnappers grab two six-year-old boys from wealthy families, the ransom is demanded and everyone holds their breath. What now?

But nothing. Silence.

Ten years later, Win, whose cousin Rhys is one of the lads, receives word that the other, Patrick, has been seen in London. Win, a man of violent talents and many secrets, follows up the tip and spots Patrick himself in a seedy part of London’s underbelly. Some unknown men close in on Patrick. Win steps in, violently; but Patrick disappears. Win calls on his lifelong friend Myron for help.


The tale centres on their attempts to find Patrick, and follows the shattered lives of the parents and siblings of the missing boys. Tense and action packed, the tale whisks the reader along like a white-water raft down the rapids.


Harlan Coben

Win and Myron’s unbreakable friendship and mutual trust make for unforgettable characters, even if this is a late introduction to the pair. Even minor characters feel real and the hints of not-what-it-seems are there if you look for them without giving anything away to spoil the final twist, which, as usual, is a humdinger.

Searching for flaws, foreign readers might get a trifle miffed at the obsession with basketball, but there is no gainsaying Coben’s descriptive prowess – you can all but smell the testosterone of the locker room.

Thank you to the Penguin Random House SA promo team for this review copy.

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PIRATE – Clive Cussler & Robin Burcell

This is a treasure-hunting man and wife adventure; a Sam and Remi Fargo story, No. 8. I doubt that there is a Cussler book that one can easily put down. This is the first in the Series co-authored by Robin Burcell.

pirate-coverThis is another exciting, fast-paced thrill-ride and I have yet to read one that was not enjoyable, but I have got wary of the factory production-line thrillers produced by the authors that have made it. They tend to lose the shine polished up by the authors’ sole earlier works.

Besides the fact that this is more about non-pirates, the setting descriptions were not always convincing, e.g. travelling by car from London to Bristol: left the city behind, sped through green fields… I get the feeling that whoever wrote this, and other descriptions of the UK, either has never been there or has not got a good feel of locale. And I can’t believe that, in this instance, it is Clive Cussler.

 Back in 1216 England, we have King John and his entourage, plus treasure, fleeing for their lives. Poisoned and dying, and concerned for the life of his son, John is advised to ditch the treasure to take the heat off; to make his son less likely to be a target. A riddle is passed on through the generations as to where the treasure was actually secreted… The key to the riddle appears to be a cipher wheel.

Present day, a ruthless distant relative of the traitor in the king’s group is after the treasure, convinced that he is the rightful owner. He is a rich man with vast resources and a team of equally nasty murderous henchmen pursuing the riddle which is hidden in a rare book, the cipher wheel and, of course, the goodies…

The Fargo team, fortunately equally well heeled with a jet at their disposal, are one step ahead, or sometimes one behind, in the race to secure the loot for their charity and for the relatives of the good guys.

So, from an antique book dealer in San Francisco, to Arizona, to Jamaica, Brazil and various cities on the British Isles, we follow the frantic chase, from one scrape to another. All good readable fun, if you can keep your tongue firmly in your cheek.


Clive Cussler


Robin Burcell

There are about fifty characters to get a handle on, though, which can be a tad confusing, but our clever, tough beautiful pair make it through alright, of course, and I expect we’ll meet them again in The Fargo Series no. 9…


Thank you to the Penguin Random House SA promo team for this review copy.


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