Book Review: Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin

This is part of a blog tour organised by Love Books Group.

Perfect Dead is a crime novel by Scottish writer Jackie Baldwin. It is the second in her new series.

Perfect Dead follows ex-priest DI Frank Farrell, as he finds himself on the trail of a vicious killer in rural Scotland. It leads to the investigation of Ivy House, which is home to ‘The Collective’, a commune of artists prepared to do anything to keep their secrets hidden.

My Photo [Perfect Dead]

Although Perfect Dead is the sequel to Baldwin’s debut novel, Dead Man’s Prayer – a novel I have not read – this didn’t impede my understanding. Admittedly, it took me a little longer to fully understand Frank Farrell’s background. However, the events from Dead Man’s Prayer were sufficiently alluded to, to make it clear what had happened up until this point.

It was well-written and there was a good, slow-burning hook, which I’m sure will intrigue readers.

I liked the elements of the book that explored the possibility of staged suicides and premeditated murders; these are classic crime genre conventions and they were suitably entertaining to read about. Clearly, Baldwin’s own experience working as a Criminal and Family Law solicitor has informed this novel.

Unfortunately, I found it quite difficult to keep track of characters because they were referred to, sometimes with their surnames only, other times with their first names only. Also, there were a lot of characters. Whilst this might be explained as a reflection of the crowded bustle of a busy police station, and an indication of my newness to Baldwin’s series, I wonder whether this makes the series less accessible for new readers to join in along the way. My advice would be to refer to characters in a consistent way throughout.

Subsequently, a lack of understanding of the characters meant I cared less about the detectives’ private lives. Again, perhaps this is because I’ve joined a series without reading the first book, but I didn’t feel that Frank’s personal live significantly contributed to the overall narrative.

If this sounds overly critical, I apologise. I shall mention some further positives.

Perfect Deadwas a slow-burning suspense that, in style, reminded me other crime thrillers I heavily enjoyed, such as Find Her by Lisa Gardner and The Teacher by Katerina Diamond.

It also had a quick and dramatic ending.

Overall, Perfect Dead was a good read, but I don’t think it was fully the book for me.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Perfect Dead will be available to buy as a paperback on Amazon UK from August 2018.

– Judith

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Book Review: Tubing by K.A. McKeagney

This is part of a blog tour with Red Door Publishing.

Tubing is a mystery and thriller novel by K.A. McKeagney.

After a chance encounter with a mysterious man on a tube train, Polly’s mundane London life is turned upside down. The man leaves before she finds out his name, and so Polly becomes desperate to see him again. As she does so, she discovers the underground phenomenon ‘Tubing’, where complete strangers organise illicit sexual encounters on commuter tube trains, but doesn’t realise she’s placing herself in danger.

My Photo [Tubing]

Tubing is marketed as a thriller. I thought it was a thriller.

There’s also a lot of sex. A lot.

I’d never heard of ‘tubing’ before this book – it’s a rather weird phenomenon (sorry) and I sincerely hope it isn’t real – so for me, the sex scenes didn’t add anything.

Excluding the gratuitous sex scenes, Tubing was easy to read, and I thought the pacing was well-balanced.

Polly’s characterisation was also well-layered; we learn different things about her background such as her struggles with an eating disorder and the way her cruel, hypochondriac mother treats her – I loved this, it reminded me of Camille’s mother from Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.

I really liked how Polly became more paranoid and suspicious of those around her as the novel progressed. It makes you wonder how much is happening in real life, and how much is simply happening inside her head.

However, I didn’t like Charlotte’s character. She was meant to be a bit snobbish and a bit devious, but I wasn’t convinced by her motivations – she felt like a weaker or unclear character.

Suddenly, Tubing moves from sex to thriller; there is an increasing number of mysterious deaths and possible suicides along the tube lines Polly normally travels. The theme of suicide here was eye-opening and shocking. Suicide on the tubes is a traumatic – and very real – issue and some of McKeagney’s descriptions were more graphic than I anticipated.

When the connections between the events on the London Underground and Polly’s own life were finally revealed, they were a good shock.

The ending was also justified, enjoyable, and satisfying.

I did enjoy the thriller moments of Tubing but I didn’t like that the premise was built around sex with strangers. I probably should have researched the book better beforehand!

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tubing is available to buy as a paperback on Amazon UK from May 2018.

– Judith

Book Review: Being Simon Haines by Tom Vaughan MacAulay

This is part of a blog tour with Red Door Publishing.

Being Simon Haines, by Tom MacAulay, is a difficult book to categorise. It tells the tale of Simon Haines, an ambitious lawyer chasing his dream: partnership at the legendary, family-run law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett. Simon is awaiting the results of a potential partnership with Fiennes & Plunkett, and decides to travel to Cuba to pass the time in an attempt to rediscover youthful enthusiasm and gather a clear mind before news that might change his life forever.

My Photo [Being Simon Haines]

Although not being able to pinpoint the genre of the book, I quite enjoyed Being Simon Haines.

It was well written, which made it incredibly easy to follow the two storylines presented – Simon’s current life in London, and his past life as a young adult.

I liked the flashback sequences most because, as a student myself, the first-person narrative perspective of a young adult was easier to understand than the first-person perspective of a city lawyer.*

* I also loved the mentions of the University of Nottingham – my very own university!

I struggled with the occasional legalistic jargon, but I don’t think this particularly hindered the book. They say to write about what you know; MacAulay is a solicitor from North London, so it is unsurprising that these things should feature in Being Simon Haines.

I liked MacAulay’s development of characters too – Plunkett is a ridiculous boss with meticulous standards who only communicates in whispers, Giles is a bumbling assistant who only ever seems to make mistakes, and Dan is a laddish best friend with many attractive qualities. The only puzzle seems to be: who is Simon Haines?

I noticed my perception of Simon change throughout the book, as more information was drip-fed – at certain points I felt supportive of him, and at others I felt downright aversion towards him. Whether this was intended or not, I thought it cleverly challenged the notion that comes with a lot of books which is “they’re the main character therefore I have to like them”.

Overall, I don’t think Being Simon Haines is a book I’d have normally have chosen – it’s not a horror, dystopian, or a thriller. However, what it is is an interesting exploration of a man with a dream, and the consequences that come with pursuing ambitions – no matter what the cost.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Being Simon Haines will be available to buy as a paperback on Amazon UK from June 2017.

– Judith