Category Archives: Bantam Press

Die Again – Tess Gerritsen

I have broken with tradition and indeed broken one of my own rules. I like to read a series of books in order yet have made an exception by devouring the latest Tess Gerritsen novel, Die Again, before having read the two before it – I like to space out my favourite series in case they suddenly stop or take a while for the next one to come out. I must admit that I was slightly worried this might mean I may miss something along the way yet it proved that whilst a story runs through all the Rizzoli and Isles novels they all actually can stand alone and are all completely gripping…

Bantam Press, hardback, 2015, fiction, 330 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

In Die Again, the eleventh outing for Detective Jane Rizzoli and Dr Maura Isles, we are initially given two stories. Firstly we are miles away from the duo’s home of Boston and find ourselves on a safari trip in Botswana. Here a group of relative strangers, though they include a couple and two best friends, are out to have an adventure in the wilds camping amongst the animals. Things soon take a much darker turn as something or someone starts picking them off one by one. Back in Boston Jane Rizzoli is called to the home of Leon Gott where the owner, a well known hunter and taxidermist, has been horrifically killed rather like a predator might kill its prey in the wild. As Jane and Maura start working together, with some tension between them, it soon appears this might not be a singular incident for the killer. How are the two stories connected? You will have to read the book to find out of course!

I am a huge fan of this series and in Die Again Tess Gerritsen reminds me of why. First there is the way, which I think has become more prevalent and more cunning as the series has gone on, that she will set you up with two stories that couldn’t be less connected if they tried, then slowly drips us information (making us feel super clever, often before she throws in a twist to flummox us) that make the two tales connect. Never to the point where you could easily guess the killer though, which I think makes these novels all the cleverer.

She also finds some subject that oddly often I find fascinating too anyway; like mummies, cults etc (just to name two of my favourites so far) and looks at them in more depth finding out even more fascinating facts that you can regal to your partner/work colleagues/strangers on a train making you seem all the more intelligent. In Die Again the subject is big cats, leopards in particular, and who doesn’t love big cats?

She thought of the cat in her own home, and how it watched her as intensely as this cougar was doing now. The connection between felines and humans was more complex than between a mere predator and prey. A house cat might sit in your lap and eat from your hand, but it still had the instincts of a hunter.
As do we.

The other thing that, for me, sets Tess Gerritsen’s novels apart from many crime series, and also makes me so addicted to them, is the macabre. Now I am not a psycho but I find the human body fascinating, be it alive or be it dead. In Gerritsen’s novels a lot of what we learn about the murders is from the victims and their anatomies as Dr Maura Isles is a forensic pathologist. This might not be for everyone but I just find it genuinely and grimly fascinating (though my dream job is to be a forensic psychologist if I could afford to go to University – any mystery benefactors please do get in touch) and in this series there have been some amazing macabre moments (what looks like a hit and run but has too much of a splat impact/an Egyptian Mummy which has a much fresher body inside it than it should) and Die Again is no exception. Death is after all every person’s final story.

The nude man hung upside down, his ankles bound with orange nylon cord. Like a pig carcass hanging in a slaughterhouse, his abdomen had been sliced open, the cavity stripped of all organs. Both arms dangled free, and the hands would have almost touched the floor – if the hands had still been attached. If hunger had not forced Bruno the dog, and maybe the two cats as well, to start gnawing the flesh of their owner.

While all this horror, notably caused by humans, is played out there are some moments of light. There is the camaraderie between Jane and Maura, which can often be tested or get testy, and their often dark sense of humour, come on if you worked doing what they do you would need a laugh. Giving the novels that extra punch too are the stories of their lives. Jane now married with children and all that brings, Maura and her situation as a single woman… now with a cat, and both of their pasts which have moments of darkness that linger. I can’t speak for everyone but when I pick up a thriller I want something dark, creepy and chilling to escape into in the safety of my own home (even if I have to check under the bed and in the wardrobes before I go to sleep) and Tess Gerritsen does this every time without fail.

I thoroughly enjoyed Die Again and read it in just two sittings. Both the narratives in Boston and Botswana had me hooked, I felt clever when I connected them and then more than happy to be given a final twist I didn’t see coming at the end. I am now really, really keen to head back and read both The Silent Girl and Last To Die playing catch up with Rizzoli and Isles especially as I know there will be a twelfth novel coming in the not too distant future, long may they continue.

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In case you are wondering why I broke with tradition and read the latest book before the others, I was super duper lucky to meet Tess of a lunchtime last week to have a natter about Die Again and much more, some of which I recorded for You Wrote The Book so do have a listen. Who else out there is a big fan of the Rizzoli and Isles novels? Who has yet to read them? Which are your favourite crime series and why?

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Filed under Bantam Press, Books of 2015, Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen

Dead Scared – S. J. Bolton

How times flies. It doesn’t seem that long ago since I read Now You See Me, the first in S.J Bolton’s, or Sharon Bolton as she has now ‘some out as – as it were, series of DC Lacey Flint crime novels yet it is in fact two years. After having read Now You See Me I remember being desperate to read the next one but putting it off as I didn’t want it to be overkill. Pun unintended. Yet once having finished Dead Scared I was (almost) kicking myself for having not read it sooner. But sometimes the best crime novels shouldn’t be binge read and saved and savoured for the right moment, as you may have guessed from that statement Dead Scared is another bloody brilliant crime thriller. Pun fully intended.

Bantham Press, hardback, 2012, fiction, 378 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

At Cambridge University a girl has tried and failed to take her own life in an extreme and unusual way, and yet she survives. Yet psychologist and lecturer Evi Oliver thinks there is something much darker possibly going on as she looks into suicides in the university and discovers that there have been 19 cases in 5 years. DC Lacey Flint is then assigned an undercover role, from DI Mark Joesbury, as a student at the school to look into the cases and find out more about what might be going on that the clothed detectives are concerned could be a case of something much darker. Soon enough Lacey is thrown into a world of internet suicide pacts, cruel student pranks and then she starts to have nightmares and the suspicion that the scary dreams of a man coming into her room might actually not be her brains overactive imagination. Could someone genuinely be scaring these girls to death?

As with Now You See Me there is much to admire about Dead Scared. Firstly it is really gripping and incredibly chilling. I was completely hooked from the very start of Dead Scared, and actually ended up reading it in two sittings both well into the night which was most unadvised when you then have to go through the house turning all the lights off and frankly have the creeps. Fear is something that we all have and know the sensation of and just as Bolton’s killer, or killers, uses that to their advantage with their victims so does Bolton with her readers. I don’t like clowns, even though they aren’t my greatest fear, I like them even less now. This book seriously gave me the shivers.

Secondly, not only are there several red herrings and dead ends to leave the reader constantly second guessing themselves and who the killer is, there is also a clever second plot around some creepy goings on in Evi Oliver’s life which has you pondering how and if the two may or may not be interlinked. Perfect puzzling fodder for anyone who loves a good (and occasionally rather grisly; one method of supposed suicide really, really bothered me – and it wasn’t even the clown one) crime and playing detective along with the detectives.

Thirdly I love Lacey Flint. Not quite in the on/off way that DI Mark Joesbury does, but she is a really fascinating protagonist. She is likeable despite the fact she is bolshy, she is honest yet sometime all too emotion driven (which is both a good and bad thing), she is also flawed (she likes a drink and casual sex and other activities) but most interestingly is she is a mystery. Still two books into the series Bolton is revealing, or actually not revealing but teasing, us with Lacey’s back story. I think there is much more for us to find out, I won’t give it away but one thing we learn about her made me do a ‘what?’ especially as she works for the police, and as we do I think it is going to get darker and darker.

Fourth and finally, because I may just sound like a stuck record of praise, what I like so much about her novels is that yes there is a lot of crime yet there are also real issues of ‘the now’ which are dealt with in her books. In Now You See Me (which I also heartily recommend if you hadn’t guessed) we are given a Ripper copycat killer thriller, which also looks at the issues of the homeless in London and how they are treated and seen by society. In Dead Scared we have a genuinely unsettling and creepy novel which also looks at the rate of suicides in the young, some hard facts and figures are placed in the book which leaves you really thinking.

I would highly recommend Dead Scared. If you like gritty and realistic crime thrillers which will have you hooked but also look at the darker aspects of society and we human beings then you can’t go wrong with these. If the series carries on like this then Sharon is going to be up there with Tess Gerritsen, Sophie Hannah, Susan Hill and Kate Atkinson as one of my very, very favourites. I can’t wait for the next one, and as I have discovered the 4th DC Lacey Flint book is out in May I might have to dive into Like This, For Ever (the third) ridiculously soon.

P.S From now on I will always call S.J. Bolton Sharon Bolton, this edition was just under the S.J. title.

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Filed under Bantam Press, Books of 2014, Review, S.J. Bolton, Sharon Bolton, Transworld Publishing

The Killing Place – Tess Gerritsen

Anyone who knows me or has been following Savidge Reads for any length of time will probably know by now that I am a big fan of Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles novels. That said though, because I am such a fan of them, I read them rather sparingly. However the other day when I was feeling in a slight bookish lull, aware I wanted something crime filled and thrilling yet familiar it seemed like it was time to catch up with the eighth in the series ‘The Killing Place’, or ‘Ice Cold’ as its titled abroad, and so I sat down and devoured the book in two sittings, starting one evening and finishing the following morning. They are utterly compelling.

Bantam Press, hardback, 2010, fiction, 322 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Dr Maura Isles, who you will know by now if you have been reading the series a while, leaves Boston for a medical conference in Wyoming where, needing a change of scene from the disastrous love affair with Father Daniel Brophy, she meets up with an old college acquaintance, Doug, and decides on the spur of the moment (not something a control freak like Maura normally does) to join him, his daughter and friends on a skiing trip for the weekend. Alas the spontaneous adventure takes a darker twist when a sudden snow storm descends and the motley crew end up stranded in the middle of nowhere with a broken down car… Until they spot Kingdom Come a seemingly abandoned settlement of part of a religious group. At first they think they have found their salvation, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.

To give anything else away after this would be to ruin all the wonderful, and truly gripping, twists and turns that Gerritsen will delight you with as ‘The Killing Place’ continues. I was one hundred percent gripped from the start of the book until the very end which I didn’t see turning out the way it did, though knowing Tess Gerritsen’s other books I should have known there is always an added twist or two to any of her tales. Before I carry on raving about the book I should throw in a few slight issues I had with it. Firstly was one of the character names. I won’t say who ‘Rat’ is in the story, as he is quite pivotal, but having that as his name very nearly broke the spell for me. I simply couldn’t get my head around it initially however I carried on as the story was just too good. Secondly I did get a little lost at one point which doesn’t usually happen. Rare for me to say it but about a quarter of the way through too much seemed to happen at once. I was delighted there were so many threads to the novel but for a chapter or two I did find myself thinking ‘hang on a minute… what?’ This did pass though and suddenly all made sense.

What I did really like about this book, and I have noticed this more and more as the series has progressed, is that Gerritsen uses the situations she puts Rizzoli and Isles, or the crimes they investigate, Isles being the Medical Examiner to Rizzoli’s detective, to talk about issues. As the series has gone on its has remained a brilliant set of thrilling crime novels but they have become less slasher and more psychological. In the case of ‘The Killing Place’ the theme is about religious sects and how they are, and aren’t, controlled and how this effects the people in them and outside of them.

I also like to think that these books make me slightly more clever, in a fun if grisly way, as Gerritsen is/was a doctor and so when awful things happen to the victims I find myself learning all sorts of scientific words and phrases I would never normally learn but can now use at will. I am dying to throw organophosphate into a conversation over dinner sometime soon.

‘Pasternak said, “How sure are you that this organophosphate stuff is what we are dealing with?”
   “It will need to be confirmed by the tox report. But the clinical picture is classic. Gruber responded to atropine. And a STAT blood test showed a significant drop in cholinesterase activity. Again, that’s something you’d find with organophosphate poisoning.”’

I highly recommend ‘The Killing Place’, it will grip you from the start and (cliché alert, yet true) have you hooked turning the pages until the small hours. I also think that being more of an Isles story and out of its usual setting of Boston this could be a good place to start the series randomly, unless you are like me and simply have to read everything in order. ‘The Killing Place’ is also a great example of a thriller that deals with issues of our times and leaves you thinking with the questions it asks. Oh, one final thing though, I hope the next book is about the random body that Rizzoli finds in a dead (natural causes) old ladies storage unit. I was really grimly fascinated by that and then Rizzoli went off in search of Maura, I felt that was ‘to be continued…’

Who else is a Rizzoli and Isles fan? Are you a fan of the TV series, I am! Which is your favourite of the books, which would you recommend to a new to Gerritsen reader? Have you read any of the non Rizzoli and Isles tales and if so what did you make of those?

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Filed under Bantam Press, Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen

Keeping the Dead – Tess Gerritsen

In my book thoughts yesterday I mentioned how that book had appealed to me because as a child I really liked fairy stories. Well, something must be in the air because one of the reasons that I utterly loved ‘Keeping the Dead’ by Tess Gerritsen, or ‘The Keepsake’ as its known on some international shores, was the fact that it started with a tale of mummies and dusty old museums, something else I was fascinated by as a kid. I am wondering what is making me want to read books which have, for me not anyone else, such links with my childhood and my first early reading days. That could start a whole post of its own, so let’s get back to the book in hand.

Bantam Books, paperback, 2009, fiction, 448 pages, from personal TBR

Madam X is the talk of the town as ‘Keeping The Dead’ opens, though she is not initially (oh how things change) as salacious as she sounds. In fact she is an ancient mummy who has been unearthed in the archives of one of Boston’s biggest, if longest forgotten, museums. This is big news for the museum and indeed for the city and so a packed room of media and specialists, including Maura Isles, await the live X-Ray. When a filing appears on the screen they initially believe they have found a major new discovery in the field of Egyptology, who knew that the Egyptians had made these advances in dental treatment? However, when the bullet from a very modern gun appears on the screen it appears that this may have been a much more recent homicide and so Detective Jane Rizzoli is called in to investigate. Soon the Museum is searched and before long more relics are found and they appear to be much less ancient than they look. It seems someone is collection women, or bits of them and soon enough this killer strikes very close indeed.

It is an overused cliché, yet ‘Keeping the Dead’ is an incredible page turner. I read this in three sittings (all at an airport, and if you don’t love flying read a book like this, I didn’t think about landing, being in the air or taking off as I was so engrossed) during a single day. I then promptly felt guilty for devouring it so quickly when I imagine it took quite a time to write, but this was a pure reading pleasure. Well, if you can call a book about a psychopath who likes to make relics of his victims, and use ancient ways of preserving them, a pleasure that is?

‘Keeping the Dead’ is the seventh in the Rizzoli and Isles series which has made Tess Gerritsen so well known, and now of course is a major (and not to bad from what I have watched so far) TV series. It is also possibly the novel which, I think, stands alone the most if you haven’t read any of the previous novels. It’s not that Rizzoli and Isles don’t develop as characters, they just aren’t the focus of this thriller, and indeed it happens over a very short space of time, in the present day sequences, because it’s the back story that we learn as we go. So Rizzoli and Isles are necessary, and indeed it is another of their shared cases, just not on every page because the heart of the story lies elsewhere. I have heard that the next in the series ‘The Killing Place’ focuses much more on our heroines as one of them goes missing. I have had to force myself not to pick it up twice in the few weeks since I put this one down, I want to savour them.

It is always hard to try and make anyone rush out and by a crime novel when you can’t really give anything away, instead I just keep banging on and on about the series and hope that you will all take note and go and pick one up. I have been debating it a while but I think, whilst I have special memories attached with the first two; both ‘The Surgeon’ and ‘The Apprentice’ for introducing me to Rizzoli and Isles, I think that ‘Keeping The Dead’ might be my favourite one yet. They started off well,they just keep getting better and better, and more and more addictive.

Who else is a Gerritsen fan? Which of the non Rizzoli and Isles novels have you read and what did you make of them? Should I really spread out a series or just indulge when the mood takes? What do you do?

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Filed under Bantam Press, Books of 2011, Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen, Transworld Publishing

Darkside – Belinda Bauer

I think at some point I will have to give crime and my thoughts on it its own post because I do find it interesting that there are some crime books that I love and other ones I absolutely loathe. ‘Darkside’ by Belinda Bauer falls straight into the ‘love’ category, though I do fear when I tell you its about the murder of a defenceless old lady you might start to judge me wrongly. Whilst I like a good linear ‘whodunit’ I am also a fan of crime novels where, yes there is murder going on and you want to find out who did it, there is also so much more to meet the eye which was just the case in Belinda Bauer’s debut novel ‘Blacklands’ which I enjoyed just as much but for rather different reasons.

When Margaret Priddy dies as ‘Darkside’ opens, everyone is in shock. Not just that the small village of Shipcott in Exmoor has been hit by a murder but the fact that anyone would want to do that to a woman who was bedridden with an illness which made her unable to move or speak. This is clearly a big case and sadly means that local policeman Jonas Holly is usurped when the big boys arrive on the scene, the head of whom is the rather odious, but brilliant to read, DCI Marvel. Soon enough the murders start to rise and someone begins taunting Jonas by leaving notes such as ‘call yourself a policeman?’ on his car and things start to get more and more personal.

I really, really enjoyed this novel. I found myself feeling like I was part of the community, which is set in the same place as Blacklands’ was and even features some of the characters from that novel, and I wonder if that is because Bauer builds a village so full of real characters that it appeals to the side of my personality that is a curtain twitcher. Whilst there is a tale of mystery and murder at the heart of what is a dark and brooding story, I do think Exmoor as a setting is a brilliant choice – especially in a bleak mid-winter – and helps with Bauer’s atmospheric descriptions, it is also a story about people and what goes on behind closed doors.

The characters are great, being both realistic and highly readable. From the victims themselves, who you get to know in many ways even if they are only in the book for a few pages, to the two main protagonists everyone is written fully and could be the people you live next door to. Jonas Holly’s back story, with his MS suffering wife Lucy, adds a certain dimension to the book and only makes you loathe the uncaring, rather bigoted (when I say rather its quite blatant) Marvel even more – though I have to say Marvel does end up stealing every scene he’s in and you find yourself laughing at him and the utter bile that comes out of his mouth. I ended up loathing him but utterly loving reading him at the same time.

In fact humour is a real theme in this book, for example there is an ongoing set of jokes between writer and reader involving the local milkman and his wares, yet it’s always slightly bittersweet. “His getaway was slow and electric, but Jonas still felt as if he’d been left eating the milkman’s dust.” You might be laughing out loud at something strange a villager does and then suddenly you realise why they might be doing it and everything looks a little darker.

“Jonas got an anonymous call from Linda Cobb to say Yvonne Marsh was on the swings in her knickers. He knew Linda’s voice and she knew that he knew it, but anonymity was hard to come by in a village as small as Shipcott, and he liked to respect it wherever possible. Nobody liked to be a tattle-tale.”

What I really admire in Bauer’s book, which could have been the tricky second novel, is that the book is an incredibly gripping and complete page turner without the need for a cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter which I found really refreshing. It’s the mystery, the characters and most of all the writing and its voice that keep you reading along. Oh and if you guess the ending then you are a genius, I had a slight jaw drop moment. ‘Darkside’ is a corking and thrilling novel which is as much about the community as the crimes committed in it. Highly recommended, I can’t wait for Bauer’s next novel. 9/10

So far as 2011 goes I think ‘Darkside’ could be racing ahead as one of my favourite books of the year. Whilst some may be snobby about the genre it’s in I would say two things. Firstly crime novels like this have a bit of everything and show that books can be well written and utterly page turning (I have used that cliché too much today, I apologise, sometimes only the cliché’s will do) and reflect our lives today. Secondly reading should be fun, and this book was exactly that, don’t you agree?

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Filed under Bantam Press, Belinda Bauer, Books of 2011, Random House Publishing, Review