Book Review: Liar Liar, by M J Arlidge

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_liar_liarThe opening fiery scene of Liar Liar by M J Arlidge is dramatic, and it is soon discovered that there are two more fires in Southampton. Local police are desperate to find if there is a link between the fires, and a lead opens when suspicions arise about the owners of the first three properties.

Within a day, three more suspicious fires are set.

DI Helen Grace’s new Detective Superintendent is a micro-manager, to her discomfort. Her team instinctively trust Helen’s orders and follow instructions without pause. The Security Operations Centre team and officers sift through the remains of the razed homes and buildings, combing among ash and charred remnants for clues, around the dangerously-near to imminent collapse of structural parts of the buildings.

One family tragedy is the start of many, as the arsonist continues. Our old friend Emilia, newspaper investigator and reporter – and fame-seeker – is right on the scene, publishing ‘only the facts’ about the case. Which serves to add fuel to the fire of outrage among the community. Just when we think Helen’s got it sorted – there come more fires, more deaths, more fraying nerves and tempers – and more leads. DI Grace and her team have to put together bits and pieces of information of which they had not realised the significance.

We begin to suspect she’s on the wrong track, and then more pieces of the puzzle take on a new interpretation, leading to the final gripping chapters and unvoiced questions.

Liar Liar is the fourth in Arlidge’s DI Helen Grace thriller series. Liar Liar gives DI Grace’s fans’ the same fascination in her and the team’s progress through their investigations as we had in the authors’ previous books, Eeny Meeny, Pop Goes the Weasel and The Doll’s House.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Liar Liar
by M J Arlidge
Published by Michael Joseph Ltd
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-718-18082-9

Book Review: The Doll’s House, by M J Arlidge

Available from booksellers nationwide on 24 April 2015

cv_the_dolls_houseI now know exactly what I will be doing in early September this year: reading the coming Liar Liar, 4th in the Helen Grace series, which started with Eeny Meeny, then Pop Goes the Weasel, and now The Doll’s House – by UK author M J Arlidge, due for release on 12th February. I love this author’s style.

The accidental discovery of a young woman’s body in wet, cold, beach sand, having died of starvation in the darkness, begins DI Grace and her team’s investigation, leading them to trace the body’s identity and background.

At the same time, a parent reports the disappearance of their daughter Ruby, who shares the same hair and eyes.

Grace’s intuition tells her there is a link between the two cases, and when one of her team finds two old case files of similar missing persons, she realises the body uncovered on the beach is the first of three, all sharing distinctive features. Further examination of the beach reveals the two bodies – also having died of starvation in darkness, and over a four-year period. Another serial killer is out and about.

In the meanwhile, Ruby is being held in an isolated room, in darkness, occasionally visited by her captor, who seeks to replicate in Ruby the long gone love of his life, his sister Summer. He fantasises that the “Summer” living in the room below ground (set up to replicate their childhood safe place) is still having difficulty “adjusting” to being together again.

Forced to dress in clothing not of her own choosing, only being fed when she “behaves”, Ruby finds a stash of secret notes in a hiding place behind a loose brick, all written by the three previous captives. She learns to play her captor for small allowances – things she can turn to tools for an escape bid.

Meanwhile, on a personal level, DI Grace’s desperation for finding a trace of her missing nephew* leads her into breaching procedures, snooping through the national police database, and at last finding an entry under his name. A colleague helps track the full file. Grace is caught in a set-up created to rid the team of Grace and the overshadowing glory cast by her earlier successes.

The investigation is ensnared in false leads, but with assistance from a former nuisance, Grace finally has the full picture – where Ruby is most likely to be held, who the captor is, his motivation…and his intent.

The serial killer has found another candidate to become his Summer. Enraged by Ruby’s escape attempt, and realising police are watching his place of work, he tries to dispose of both Ruby and the doll’s house in which he has been holding her.

‘Read carefully, I will say only “zis”‘ … a lone Kawasaki motorbike is faster than a patrol car, and the absence of backup creates an urgent need to go it alone.

Published by Penguin,  this is joining one of my crime authors’ collections on my shelves.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

The Doll’s House
by M J Arlidge
Digital Audiobook ISBN: 9781405921008
Paperback ISBN: 9781405919197
ePub eBook ISBN: 9781405919203

Book Review: Pop Goes the Weasel, by M. J. Arlidge

cv_pop_goes_the_weaselAvailable in bookstores nationwide on Monday 5 January.

Do you enjoy crime TV? How about Silent Witness? Arlidge wrote for that series, and you’ll love Arlidge’s Pop Goes the Weasel.

In this crime thriller, Arlidge has continued to focus the story around the character he first created in Eeny Meeny – Detective Inspector Helen Grace: “I wanted a female protagonist who was different from anything I’d seen before–more interesting than the people she was tracking.” (SoundCloud: Richard & Judy Book Club)

He has written not a linear plot, but near parallel scenes featuring the different characters in the tale, and it works well. The plot covers revenge, spousal and child abuse, prostitution and gang control, and intermingled with the criminal element are snippets of the private lives of the police investigation team

Men turn up dead – and butchered. Their hearts are delivered to their places of work – unlike the first victim, for whom the delivery is made to his home. D I Grace finds her investigation is made difficult by the new Detective Superintendant, Ceri Hardwood, who is keen to advance her career by piggy-backing on the successes of her team. Then there is the callously ambitious crime reporter, using means fair or foul to access information about the progress of the investigation, and leads towards a headline-maker to bump her career. All the while, frustrated but loyal team members follow Grace’s hunches, tracking down leads and people for interview, as they work steadily to resolve the mounting body count and their own domestic issues.

This is more like watching a television production – descriptive passages set the scene, bring action to life, reveal emotions…than reading. No chapter is longer than it need be to present the scene. The tale is tight, and all the more vivid for it. We watch how the British police proceed through an investigation, as they work within the law (with one or two stepping outside for a quick result) to track and trace online and real world activity of suspects or leads.

This was a great read – Arlidge’s style had me stuck to his pages over two days until finishing it. That doesn’t happen often.

If you want a fast-paced, intriguing set of puzzle pieces to fit together, this is the book for you.

(A third in this series is scheduled for release in February 2016.)

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Pop Goes the Weasel
by M. J. Arlidge
Published by Penguin Books
ISBN-13: 9781405914956