From the Shadows by Neil White

Although Neil White is a bestselling author, I hadn’t come across him until I saw From the Shadows on Netgalley. What drew me to the title was the description — “a gripping thriller”. In fact, it’s part murder mystery, part crime fiction, part thriller, part courtroom drama. All of which amounts to a good read once the story gets going.

So, what’s it about?

When criminal defence lawyer Dan Grant is asked to take over a case from another firm, he suspects there’s something unusual about the case.

Robert Carter is accused of murder. The court case is just two weeks away and Dan is supposed to just turn up, defend the client, and get paid. But that’s not Dan’s style. He wants to do his best for Carter, and that means investigating the case. Carter’s best chance of getting off is if Dan can show that someone else had the opportunity to commit the crime.

Time is very short so Dan needs help to build a case. He hires a former client, investigator Jayne Brett, to do some of the legwork.

Dangerous game

Once they begin to look into the case, they find that Carter is not the murderer. But everyone, including Carter, is reluctant to tell what they know and, before long, Dan and Jayne find that uncovering the truth is a dangerous game. Once they’ve started, however, they can’t let go until the job is done.

After a strong opening, From the Shadows takes a while to pick up pace. A couple of chapters in, it seems to settle down and from there on it’s a fairly engrossing read.

Dan and Jayne are a well-matched team and far and away the best characters in the novel. I’d happily follow them through further novels if White turns this into a series. That said, Neil White could have made From the Shadows a stronger story with a bit more insight into the background and motivations of the other main characters.

I’d like to have known more about Shelley, the solicitor who worked on Carter’s case before Dan took it over. What did she find out and who did she upset in the process? How come her firm’s conflict of interest only became an issue so late in the case? There was also scope to provide more detail on some of the other key players in this story — particularly the baddies. Nevertheless, From the Shadows is a decent read. If you like crime fiction, murder mysteries or courtroom dramas, keep an eye out for it.

From the Shadows by Neil White is published by Bonnier Zaffre. I read a Netgalley ARC.

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck | An intense thriller

Haylen Beck delivers a tense thriller about an isolated mother struggling to find her children before it’s too late.

Leaving behind an abusive husband, a young mother packs her belongings into an old station wagon. Then, taking her young children she sets out on a journey to start a new life. As she travels from New York through Arizona, Audra Kinney half expects someone will follow her. She’s understandably nervous so she sticks to quiet, back roads but the journey is long and the car is hot.

Stopping for water at an isolated gas station, she spots a police car parked on the forecourt. Although she’s done nothing wrong, the sight of the car makes her nervous. She buys the water and plans to stop off overnight when she reaches the next town. It’s just a few miles away and both she and the children are ready for a rest. Back in the car, with no sign of the police, she resumes her journey. But then she notices the police car following her and when Sheriff Whiteside pulls her over, Audra’s nightmare is about to begin. In the blink of an eye she finds herself in a jail cell with her children missing. Isolated and with no one to call on for help, she must battle corrupt authorities to find her children before it’s too late.

Here and Gone is not just tense, it’s intense. From the first page, Haylen Beck had my heart racing. I felt both too scared to continue reading and too scared to stop. In the event, I read on until 300 pages later I  reached the end in a single sitting.

This is good, old-fashioned storytelling with a strong plot, believable characters, tension, drama and a fast pace.  If you don’t mind being scared, it’s a cracking read!

Disclosure: I read an advance copy via Netgalley.

Give Me the Child by Mel McGrath

Give Me the Child by Mel McGrath is a cuckoo-in-the-nest psychological thriller. It’s the story of a family pushed into meltdown by the unexpected arrival of an 11-year old love child.

The action takes place in London during the 2011 riots. The central character and narrator is Dr Cat Lupo, an expert in child personality disorders.

Cat is married to Tom and they have a pre-teen daughter, Freya.

The story begins when Ruby Winter, an 11-year old girl turns up on Cat and Tom’s doorstep. Cat is shocked to learn that Ruby is Tom’s love child. She barely has time to process the news before Ruby moves in.

This is because Ruby’s mother, Linda, has just been found dead. Her only other relative is her grandmother and while Cat is keen for the grandmother to become Ruby’s guardian, it seems no one else wants to go along with that idea.

No such thing as evil?

Against her better judgment, Cat allows Ruby to stay. But almost immediately, things happen that make her fear Ruby’s influence on Freya. Although Cat’s professional background tells her there’s no such thing as evil, instinct tells her otherwise.

Soon, with family headed for meltdown, Cat finds herself caught up in a race against time to save Freya.

Initially, I thought that Give me The Child was off to a slightly shaky start — there seemed to be too many characters and not enough information about some of them. But the storyline and main characters are interesting and within a few pages, I was hooked. The more I read, the more I would have liked a bit more backstory about Tom’s relationship with Cat and also his relationship with Ruby and Ruby’s mother, but I guess it’s a sign of believable characters that I found myself wanting to know more. Overall, I enjoyed this novel. If it had a prequel, I’d be inclined to read it!

[Disclosure: The publisher, Harper Collins provided an advance copy for the purpose of this review].