Her Last Move by John Marrs: This Thriller Left Me Feeling Gobsmacked and Awestruck

(that’s too tiny to read, sorry, click here to embiggen. There are a lot of great writers here — you’re going to want to check out those other posts.)

Her Last MoveHer Last Move

by John Marrs

eARC, 352 pg.
Thomas & Mercer, 2018
Read: November 8 – 12, 2018

           The very fact people were talking about him and taking him seriously was proof he was on the right path. But branding him a serial killer was lazy. Serial killers and psychopaths murder out of compulsion, he reminded himself. They do it because they have no choice. He killed with purpose. And eventually, everyone would understand why.

This is one of those books that I’m not going to do justice to. I know that now, and if not for the deadline of posting in a few hours, I’d probably walk away now and come back daily for until next Tuesday and post something I don’t like. But I do have that deadline, so I have to post something I’m not satisfied with in a few hours. I just like this one so much; and have so much that I want to say, but won’t because it would ruin your experience, that I know I’ll want a couple of mulligans to this post.

This starts off with one of those chapters we’ve all read too many times — a budding serial killer is preparing to make his first kill and is indulging in some interior monologue beforehand. This is where we start to get an understanding of the character, why he thinks he needs to be killing, why he’s so wonderful/special/different. But this chapter isn’t quite that — and by the time you realize this isn’t following the standard template, Marrs has his hooks in you — and this book is off to a startling and bloody start.

DS Becca Vincent is a young detective just trying to get somewhere in her career — it seems that her superiors, including (infuriatingly enough) women, are holding her back because of her devotion to her daughter. Not that her mother considers her that devoted as she’s doing most of the hands-on care while Becca is at work. She’s in the crowd when the first killing happens and is the first police presence at the scene. She also is the first to tie that victim to another murder victim. She leverages this into a spot on the investigation team, where she hopes she can make enough of a difference to lead to more responsibility in the future.

The first thing she’s assigned to do is to go over the CCTV tapes with a “super-recogniser.” I don’t know if this is a real thing or not, and don’t care. It works really well in this book — these are a select team of people with near-eidetic memories for faces who spend every shift pouring through security footage for faces — either to track down suspects or identify people who are near too many crime scenes to chalk up to coincidence. We meet DS Joe Russell as he recognizes a suspect on the street while riding a bus and chases him down. Becca meets him in less exciting circumstances — a dirty squadroom in a less-than-impressive looking building. She doesn’t buy the concept originally, but Joe wins her over pretty quickly.

The investigation doesn’t move quickly, there’s a lot of manpower put into it (more and more all the time), but progress is slow. A friendship develops (not without a few bumps) between Joe and Becca much more quickly, and they clearly work together well.

The killer’s spree does move quickly on the other hand. He has a plan, he’s been developing it, nurturing it, and getting it ready to carry out for a very long time. He’s spent years setting up these dominoes and when he knocks the first over, the rest fall quickly. As we watch him do that, we learn what shaped him throughout his life into the monster he’s become. Nothing that happens to him justifies what he’s doing — nothing could — but it helps the reader understand him, and empathize with him to a degree (until he gets to a certain point and you can’t empathize with him anymore).

The book is full of sincere and devoted professionals trying to get the job done in the best way to protect lives and stop the killer — we focus on a couple of them, but they’re clearly all over the place. Unlike the people on TV, these professionals have family, friends, medical issues, children, pasts, problems and joys outside the job who will distract from and inform their performance on the job. Watching Becca and Joe unsuccessfully balance these parts of their life (particularly given the pressures as the number of bodies rises) is just one of the things that Marrs does right. Come to think of it, you can say the same thing about our killer (for most of the book anyway). I’m really impressed at how much genuine tension and drama Marrs is able to mine from this.

Each death is increasingly horrific — seriously, these are some of the most gruesome murders I’ve read. Each reveals more about the killer and what’s driving him. The reader (as we have more information than the police) will put the pieces together before the Becca and Joe do. But when things start to click for the police, they’re able to figure things out quickly. It’s a very satisfying moment — the question is, do they figure things out in time to save anyone on the killer’s list?

I’ve never read Marrs before — but I will again. There’s not a wasted word in these 352 pages, not a throwaway line, useless exchange. My notes are filled with “Is he going somewhere with ____?” and “There’d better be a pay off to ___” Every time, without fail, I could’ve gone back and added the page/line that demonstrated he was going somewhere with that idea or paid off that observation. Even in my favorite reads of 2018, there are moments we probably don’t need — most of which I’m happy to have — lines, ideas, scenes that could be cut without hurting things. That’s not the case here — anything you read here is important, even if (maybe especially if) it doesn’t seem so.

I’m not sure how this would hold up to repeated reading — a lot of thrillers don’t. And I haven’t had time to try this one, but I think it’d hold up pretty well, if you’re not distracted by wondering what Marrs (or his characters) are up to, or what’s going to happen next, etc. you can focus on all the subtle little things he’s doing to create the anticipation and tension, and appreciate the skill involved in grabbing the reader and putting them through the paces.

This will suck you in, keep you entertained through the paces of the investigation, and lull you into thinking you know how things are going just long enough for you to get complacent so he can drop the floor out from underneath you. Marrs makes bold choices and will catch you off-guard at least once — I can practically guarantee that. This is one of those books that will lead you to shirk responsibilities at home and work; postpone things like eating and sleeping; and momentarily resent your family for interacting with you — particularly the last thirty percent or so (although you might have to might have to take a quick break to absorb what you just read or catch your breath). One of the best I’ve read this year — I hope you give this a shot and I bet you’ll agree.

—–

5 Stars

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided — as well as Thomas & Mercer and the fine folks at Netgalley for the eARC.

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BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Her Last Move by John Marrs

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the fantastic Her Last Move by John Marrs. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit (assuming I can come up with something more coherent to say about it than “kermit flail.gif GORUNOUTANDGETTHISRIGHTNOW!!!!”).
(that’s too tiny to read, sorry, click here to embiggen. There are a lot of great writers here — you’re going to want to check out those other posts.)

Book Details:

Book Title: Her Last Move by John Marrs
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release date: November 8, 2018
Format: Paperback/ebook/audiobook
Length: 352 pages

Book Blurb:

She’s chasing a killer. He’s watching her every move.

He hides in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment. Each kill is calculated, planned and executed like clockwork.

Struggling to balance her personal and professional life, young DS Becca Vincent has landed the biggest case of her career—and she knows that it will make or break her. But she can’t catch the culprit alone. Together with facial recognition expert Joe Russell, she strives to get a lead on the elusive murderer, who is always one step ahead of them.

Time is not on their side. The body count is rising, and the attacks are striking closer and closer to home. Can Becca and Joe uncover the connection between the murders before the killer strikes the last name from his list?

About John Marrs:

John MarrsJohn Marrs is the author of #1 bestsellers The One (soon to be made into a film with Urban Myth Films), The Good Samaritan (shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards 2018), When You Disappeared, and Welcome to Wherever You Are. After working as a journalist for 25-years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time writer.

Her Last Move is dedicated to John’s late father, Charlie, who was a police officer for 25 years.

Follow him on Twitter @johnmarrs1 Facebook: @johnmarrsauthor Instagram: @johnmarrs.author website: johnmarrsauthor.co.uk

Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram ~ Amazon Author Page

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Waterstones ~ BookDepository


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided — as well as Thomas & Mercer and the fine folks at Netgalley for the eARC.

The Twisted Web by Rebecca Bradley: A Great Hook and Subtle Storytelling Make for a Compelling Read

The Twisted WebThe Twisted Web

by Rebecca Bradley
Series: DI Hannah Robbins, #4

Kindle Edition, 277 pg.
2018
Read: November 9 – 10, 2018

‘So, he talks about crime online and is murdered and left to be found in what is made to look like a crime scene?’ Ross asked, clarifying the situation in his own mind. A situation we all needed to get our heads around.

‘That appears to be the gist of it, Ross…’

I can’t come up with a plot summary as succinct as that, no matter how hard I try. As far as hooks go, they don’t come much better than that. This is my second Rebecca Bradley novel, and it’s the second one with a killer hook. In many ways, a killer hook — like knowing — is half the battle.

It’s up to DI Hannah Robbins and her team to find this murderer, and from the get-go, the cards are stacked against them. To begin with, social media was aware of the body before the police were (despite the number of CCTV cameras in the area the body was dumped), and Twitter was demanding action. Which means — like in so many aspects of society today — the pressure on those seeking to do the work in a professional, careful manner works against them. The online mob (and the politicians that fear getting on their wrong side) demand instant action, instant results and instant justice. Good police work rarely gives you instant anything.

Robbins’ team is in a little bit of flux at the moment — they have a relatively new DCI, who isn’t thrilled with the makeup of the team and doesn’t trust Robbins’ leadership (possibly not her ability at all — I’m not sure) as well as a newish DC who has started to prove herself (but is still trying to); they’re short a vital member due to a recent heart-attack; and Robbins herself is recovering from an injury and isn’t quite herself while being distracted by some family drama. But like any good team of professionals, they band together, adapt and get to work. I can easily see versions of this book where the internal problems distract the team from the investigation enough that the killer strikes again (which doesn’t mean that the killer doesn’t strike again here, but it’s not for this reason).

Robbins seems to do a pretty solid job running things, using her personnel and herself efficiently and wisely — from this particular armchair, the procedural part of this novel is the way things are supposed to go. No maverick detective bucking the system, going their own way, or bending any rules of evidence. How many “police procedurals” can claim that? Through that careful, ticking every box kind of approach — the stuff that Rebus can’t be bothered with, Bosch only gives lip service to, and Peter Grant submits to (grumbling the entire way) — Robbins team gets the job done. Not that serendipity doesn’t play a role, but that happens.

While delivering on that front, Bradley gives us a lot of really good character moments and subtle emotional beats. The observations about witnesses trying to insert themselves into things, the effect that a crime can have on the family of a victim, what goes on in a postmortem, and so on — elevated this from merely a solid procedural. (not that there’s anything wrong with a solid procedural)

One death permanently changed the life of many people.

Those affected by a murder often felt as though their life had also been taken once a loved one had been snatched so ruthlessly. But a court, should a murder ever go to trial, only ever counted one life. The media only counted and reported on the one life. Investigating the murder, you soon came to realise it was a hell of a lot more than one life. You don’t live in a vacuum. You are more than yourself in the world.

There were a couple of times, however, that she ruined the moment (well, diminished it greatly) by following a nice bit of description and showing us what was going on by following it up with an unessential and clunky sentence telling us what she’d just shown. Displaying a little more trust in her readers would help things. But overall, I was really impressed with the way she described the thinking and emotions behind the actions of her characters — even the tertiary ones.

Her characters are fully-developed and well-rounded. Even many of those we meet for only a few paragraphs. I’m a newbie to this series, but by the end, I thought I had a pretty good handle on almost everyone in Robbins’ world, as well as the killer and their family. That’s not easy to accomplish in a book like this that really had a lot more going on than just the murder inquiry. I really want to find out how things progress with a few of these people, and would jump on book five in this series tomorrow if it were available for that reason alone (well, okay, December — but only because I’ve got the rest of this month tightly scheduled).

I spent most of the novel annoyed by how much time we were spending with the killer — typically, novelists don’t pull this part off well, or at least with enough value added to make it worth my while (and several novelists and novels that are my favorites have this problem). Getting his perspective on the reaction to his crimes and on the official investigation didn’t seem to add much to the book, and took time away from the more interesting characters and actions. Because, really, almost all of his reactions were what the reader would’ve guessed if Bradley hadn’t given us this. But, I have to admit by the end, Bradley made almost all of it worthwhile — it was some pretty clever plotting on her part and a subtle bit of character work — and turned what was a weak point (for me, not for others) into a strength.

I was impressed with Dead Blind when I read it a few months back — but this The Twisted Web is so much better. Maybe because she’s had more time to create this world and knows her characters better, maybe it’s just the world she’s created. Either way, this book has insured that I’m going to be on the lookout for whatever she’s doing next (and, time permitting, I’ll grab the first three in this series). The Twisted Web delivers it all — some reflection on the driving forces behind our contemporary culture (and a well-deserved critique!), a solid police procedural, a villain with a credible motivation, a crime spree one can actually imagine happening, a couple of legitimate surprises, and human characters (as opposed to cardboard cutouts or stereotypes) driving it all.

—–

4 Stars

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT (and unauthorized Giveaway): The Twisted Web by Rebecca Bradley — and

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the gripping and throught-provoking The Twisted Web by Rebecca Bradley. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. At the end of this post, there’s a giveaway, too. But let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?

Book Details:

Book Title: The Twisted Web by Rebecca Bradley
Release date: September 17, 2018
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 401 pages

Book Blurb:

A social media shaming. A killer with a message. A deadly combination.

When the body of a man is left in the city centre set up as a realistic police crime scene, DI Hannah Robbins is forced to enter a world that can break a person, a case and a reputation.

Social media platforms light up and Hannah is pitted against the raging online monster and a killer who has already lost everything.

Can she catch the killer and put him behind bars or will she become part of his sadistic game?

About Rebecca Bradley:

Rebecca BradleyRebecca is the author of four novels in the DI Hannah Robbins series, Shallow Waters, Made to be Broken, Fighting Monsters and The Twisted Web as well as a standalone thriller, Dead Blind.

She lives with her family in the UK with their two Cockapoos Alfie and Lola, who keep Rebecca company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis.

After 16 years service, Rebecca was medically retired from the police where she finished as a detective constable on a specialist unit.

Rebecca now runs a consulting service where she supports crime writers in making sure their fiction is authentic so they can get on with telling a great story. You can find details of that HERE.

Rebecca Bradley’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram ~ Amazon Author Page

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US

GIVEAWAY

At the last moment, I decided to add a Giveaway for this book. I’m not that creative, and I don’t want to bother with setting up a Rafflecopter or anything, so we’ll keep this simple. In the next 48 hours (check the post for the time — Mountain Daylight Time zone), leave a comment on this post — include the name of your favorite fictional police officer/detective, and make sure I can get in touch with you somehow. I’ll draw two names for an electronic copy of this book (format of your choosing).

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

BOOK BLITZ: Freefall by Jana Williams

About the Book:

The deep-space transport ship, the Vera Rubin, is light years from Earth when botanist Elle Silver begins to question the use of their space-travel drug, HCH.  Elle notices a growing number of her friends and  fellow colonists awaken from their 90-day sleep cycles exhibiting a variety of negative side-effects and she begins to believe the drug is the culprit.  Some of the effects are minor, dry eyes and lack of appetite. Other symptoms are a bigger concern on a tiny ship packed with colonists.  With each sleep cycle completed, more and more colonists awaken both confused and barely concealing a simmering rage – rage that could be a catastrophe on a ship as crowded as the Vera Rubin.  Elle needs proof, but she also needs a plan. If the drug that allows them to travel deep-space is at fault, what then?  Elle and her friends Ashok, Achebe and Jin-Hai are pressed to their limits to find a solution to their problem before the ship erupts into chaos… with light years left to travel.

Find FREEFALL on Amazon.Com & Amazon.In

Guest Post:

As a guest writer for a post on books – I thought that rather than talk about my novel, FREEFALL per se…. readers like yourself might be interested in how the book came to be written. I think when we discover a book that really engages us, we begin to believe that writers are some mythical beings with a special ‘secret’ ingredient that allows them to write.

This could not be further from reality in my case and in many other writers’ lives too. The only ‘secret’ ingredient I might possess is a dogged determination to get my story onto the page. I learned determination and persistence from my mother. My mother also seeded in all her daughters an absolute love of reading and storytelling. Although, I continue to be the only writer in our immediate family, my sisters actively read books and even lead book club discussion groups too.

Growing up in a household of females (my father deserted us) was pivotal to my central attitude about life. I believe that there is very little that a determined girl or woman cannot accomplish. As a child, there was no one to tell me ‘girls can’t do that’ OR if my sisters did say it – I immediately set out to prove them wrong. This attitude is woven into the story of FREEFALL throughout the book.

The other tenant of the book is the importance of curiosity. I spent a fair bit of time alone as a child, poking into things, exercising my curiosity about how things worked, why they worked and even sometimes dismantling things to find out if I could make them work again. My single mother had very little extra money to fix toys that were broken or even buy new ones. So all of us girls became adept at putting dolls back together, or gluing tea sets that got broken or putting wheels back on wagons to get them working again.

In the book Elle reminds herself that curiosity is a good thing, it can lead to new ideas and discoveries of importance that might have gone unnoticed by others who never asked the question ‘Why?’ Asking yourself why and then setting out to find the answer can lead to amazing things. As you will see, Freefall reflects core values that I hold that women are smart, capable and caring – and can do almost anything if they try.

My own sense of adventure stems from my curiosity about life here, on this planet – which led to speculation about life – out there in another corner of the universe. Another core belief of mine is that you don’t have to have a degree from a university to write and write well. What you do need is the desire to tell an engaging story. The best place to learn how to do that is from inside a book where you can read, read, and read.

Once you’ve read a fair number of books, start mentally sorting them out into the ones you liked and the ones that were just okay – but not spellbinding. And finally, what about the books you didn’t like? Stack them up, and then start thinking about the ones you liked – What did they have in common? Do the same mental exercise with the books you didn’t like – What did they have in common? You will learn as much about writing from what you didn’t like – as from what you did. Once you know what you like in a book, you’re ready to start writing your own story.

It’s important to write something you would enjoy reading yourself, because if you’re writing a novel you’ll be spending days and weeks and months in the world you’re creating. So it better be a place that you look forward to visiting – you owe it to yourself to make it so. I truly loved every minute of writing Freefall. The editing portion was a challenge for me – because it is a bit like cleaning the house; necessary and important but certainly not thrilling to do.

Freefall came into being because I love good Science Fiction and Fantasy – and I hoped to write a story worthy of some that I have read. Also Freefall came into being because I was persistent enough to sit down every morning before going to work (and sometimes after work too) to continue writing Elle’s adventures with her friends. I would spend hours thinking about what would happen next, so that I would have a focus for the next days writing. And then, when I was done with the first draft, I willingly put in more time to fix the things that needed fixing to make the story more clear and uncluttered.

And of course you must be wondering, ‘Have I started the sequel?” Of course I have! I can’t wait to see what happens next in the Amalie Noether Chronicles. I hope you will join me in reading FREEFALL. Be assured – Elle’s adventures will continue in space in the next volume of the series

About the Author:

Jana Williams is certain that fiction can change people’s lives – especially women and girls.  Her own life is testimony to that fact.  One of five daughters, she was raised by a single-mom who placed a high value on reading and storytelling.

The ability to read, coupled with a child’s innate curiosity about the world, and access to books to satisfy that curiosity can offer significant opportunity to a child. Like most writers Jana has bounced from job to job, absorbing stories, cultures and customs as she worked.  She has been a high-speed motion picture photographer, a VFX coordinator, worked in the film industry, and the publishing trade as a book seller – a publisher’s rep and now an author.

But her first love is reading…. and with each book of the Freefall trilogy sold Jana will donate funds to Literacy agencies around the world whose work is to bring the joy of reading to others.

Enjoy a good adventure story and help others learn to read at the same time !

Find/Like Jana on Facebook  
Find Jana’s Writing advice – Twitter
 
 

 

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: The Green Viper by Rob Sinclair

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the action packed The Green Viper by Rob Sinclair. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Green Viper by Rob Sinclair
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Release date: November 5, 2018
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 326 pages

Book Blurb:

I need your help. Call me.

Ex-intelligence agent James Ryker receives a coded message through a secret drop point, a means of communication known only to him and one other person. The problem is, that person is his ex-boss, Mackie… and he’s already dead.

But the cry for help is real, and it’s a request Ryker can’t refuse.

Travelling to New York alone and without official sanction, Ryker has a single goal in mind, yet even he couldn’t have bargained for the violent world he’s soon embroiled in. Caught in the middle of a spiraling chaos, with the FBI on one side and warring underworld bosses on the other, Ryker must put all of his skills to the test in order to come out on top and keep his word.

In a world full of lies and deceit, loyalty is everything, and it’s time for James Ryker to pay his dues.

About Rob Sinclair:

Rob SinclairRob is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Enemy series and James Ryker series of espionage thrillers. His books have sold over half a million copies to date with many reviewers and readers having likened Rob’s work to authors at the very top of the genre, including Lee Child and Vince Flynn.

Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a ‘can’t put down’ thriller. He worked for nearly 13 years for a global accounting firm after graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels. Rob now writes full time.

Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.

Rob Sinclair’s Social Media:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon US ~ Amazon UK


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the literary thriller The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond
Publisher: Parthian Books
Release date: July 19, 2018
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 280 pages

Book Blurb:

Within the dark heart of an abandoned city, on an island once torn by betrayal and war, lies a terrible secret…

Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he’s created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illy Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illy has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder…

The Golden Orphans offers a new twist on the literary thriller.

About Gary Raymond:

Gary RaymondGary Raymond is a novelist, critic, editor and broadcaster. He is the presenter of BBC Radio Wales’, The Review Show, and is one of the founding editors of Wales Arts Review. He is the author of two novels, The Golden Orphans (Parthian, 2018) and For Those Who Come After (Parthian, 2015). He is a widely published critic and cultural commentator.

Gary Raymond’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Amazon Author Page

Purchase Links for The Golden Orphans:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Waterstones ~ Book Depository ~ NOOK ~ Kobo


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.