Perfect Death – the third title in Helen Fields DI Callanach series

If you are a fan of police procedurals, keep an eye out for the third title in Helen Fields DI Callanach series. Due out out this month (January 2018), Perfect Death follows on  Perfect Remains and Perfect Prey.

Perfect Death DI Callanach seriesCallanach is a French-Scottish fictional detective.  Along with his colleagues DCI Ava Turner and DS Lively, he investigates crime, corruption and murder in and around Edinburgh. I like the fast pace and interplay of characters in these novels. They are gritty, but there is also humour and the plots are strong.

In Perfect Death – the third title in Helen Fields DI Callanach series, a serial killer is on the loose in Edinburgh. The killer selects his victims carefully, building close relationships with them before subjecting them to death by poison. His motivation is enjoyment of the grief experienced by those closest to his victims.

A lot to like

There’s a lot to like about Perfect Death.  The pace is fast and the characters, including minor characters, are well drawn. There are nice references back to the earlier titles in the series. There is also good development of the relationships between the main characters.

As well as the main plot which features the murders, there are several subplots. The most important of these involves police corruption.  At times, this reminded me of the BBC Line of Duty series.

Another subplot concerns Callanach’s troubled relationship with his French mother. We are given more insight into why their relationship broke down. Thanks to Turner’s intervention, there are hopeful signs  it may improve in future. If this comes to pass, it will benefit Callanach’s personal life.

I enjoyed the grit and humour in the evolving relationship between Callanach and DS Lively.  There is also a nice undercurrent of romance between Callanach and Turner.

Perfect Death by Helen Fields is published by Avon Books.

[Disclosure: I read an advance copy via Netgalley.com]

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

This description of The Chalk Man was what first drew me to C.J Tudor’s debut novel.

‘None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning. Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own? Was it the terrible accident? Or when they found the first body?’

C.J. Tudor gets off to a strong start — so much so,  I read the first 30 percent of The Chalk Man in a single sitting.

The idea for The Chalk Man is intriguing and slightly scary.

The story opens when a dismembered body is found in the woods. Schoolboy Eddie Adams is the main narrator. He’s an interesting kid who observes a lot of what is going on around him even if he doesn’t always understand what he sees and hears.

Inspired by something a teacher says, Eddie gets the idea of drawing chalk men as a secret code. He and his friends then begin to use the code to leave messages for each other. They use different colours so as to distinguish who drew which message.

The timeline switches between 1986 and 2016. Apart from the discovery of the dismembered body, other troubling events take pace in 1986. Then, as adults, Eddie and his friends each receive a letter containing a chalk stick figure. The letters scare them for different reasons. Each has secrets from the past and reasons to fear discovery.

The more that I read, the more I found myself wondering about the intended audience of The Chalk Man. It may appeal more to the YA market than to adult readers. I felt the characters didn’t really develop as the story progressed. I found this frustrating, particularly in the second half of the book. More frustrating, though, is that when secrets are revealed, they don’t always live up to the promise of The Chalk Man’s strong opening.

That said, this is a fast read and received some great reviews on Goodreads.

[Disclosure: I read an advance copy via Netgalley]

In a Cottage in the Woods by Cass Green | Review

I really liked how In a Cottage in the Woods opened. Cass Green sets up the story in just a couple of pages.

She introduces a troubled heroine, Neve Carey and a suicidal woman called Isabelle.  Neve meets Isabelle on a bridge and they have a brief conversation just before Isabelle jumps. Although brief, we learn a lot about Neve from this conversation. For one thing, she’s kind enough to stop and help a stranger. She’s also very hard on herself. She questions her own motivations, and thinks that she falls short.  She’s someone who does the right thing when it matters, but she’s also troubled and unhappy. Within just a couple of pages, you get a really strong sense of who she is and why she does what she does.

Believable character

Neve’s a very believable character. There’s a lot going wrong in her life — her relationship has broken up and she’s temporarily staying in sister’s house because she can’t afford to stay anywhere else. Her work is boring and she’s underpaid. Her financial insecurity and emotional unhappiness impact her relationships, stirring up conflict that isolates her from family and friends. This isolation is what makes her the perfect heroine for Cass Green.

Cottage in the Woods

Neve inherits Isabelle’s cottage in the woods when she has hit rock bottom — no home, no relationship, no money, no job. So she has no choice but to move in. The cottage is isolated and creepy, making it an excellent setting for Neve to face her demons. And not all of them are internal. Someone doesn’t want Neve in the cottage.  The question is who? And why?

In a Cottage in the Woods is an entertaining page turner and a fast read. I enjoyed it. If you like the sound of it, you might also like The Woman Next Door.

Disclosure: HarperCollins provided a review copy.