Thriller Review: The Constant Soldier by William Ryan

The Constant Soldier (Hardback)

Blurb:

The pain woke him up. He was grateful for it. The train had stopped and somewhere, up above them, the drone of aircraft engines filled the night sky. He could almost remember her smile . . . It must be the morphine . . . He had managed not to think about her for months now.

1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . . .

 

This is such an emotive read!

Paul Brandt is a German soldier who has been seriously injured on the Eastern Front. So when he returns back to his village home to live with his father to convalesce he realises everything has changed and finds he is living next door to an SS rest hut where a number of female prisoners are forced to work ‘for the good of the camp.’ But when Brandt glimpses a female prisoner, behind the barbed wired fence, from his past he decides that he must gain access to the hut to help her. But Brandt faces danger from all directions both inside and outside of the camp.

I absolutely loved this novel which was littered with beautiful descriptions and historical facts with the author skillfully weaves into the story without it overpowering the narrative, making it feel both haunting and authentic.

The protagonist, Paul Brandt is an unlikely but lovable hero who loathes himself for the crimes he had to commit in the name of ‘the Fatherland.’ He is one of the many characters who still has a moral compass and wishes to atone for his sins by trying to rescue not only the prisoners but himself as well. I also loved Brandt’s bravery which really stood out for me as he risks his own life to fight for what is right.

This novel is told from the point of view of Brandt, Neumann an SS officer who runs the hut, Polya, a Russian tank engineer, and Agneta, the female prisoner who works in the hut and has a past with Brandt. I loved the different perspectives in this novel which reflected the persecution within Nazi Germany and the devastating affects the Second World War had on everyone.

This novel focuses on the last few months of the Second World War in a small remote village and the toll the war has had on humanity. The author doesn’t focus too much on the concentration camp which features in the novel but whose presence is always there lurking in the shadows. The story does showcase some of the atrocities which happened within this period of history as well as hinting at the darkness within each of the characters.

I did find I had my fist in my mouth for much of the novel which reflected a society torn apart by a fascist regime and a violent five year war and its devastating consequences.

This is an emotional and fascinating insight into a period of history which we know so much but at the same time so little about and is a heart-stopping gripping story of loss, love, resilience, guilt and above all hope – I cannot recommend this book enough!

To buy this book from Amazon click here.

To buy this book from Waterstones click here.

To find out more about William Ryan follow him on Twitter @WilliamRyan_  or check out his website here.

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Chiller Review: Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst

Blurb: 

Karen is meant to be the one who fixes problems.

It’s her job, as a psychiatrist – and it’s always been her role as a friend.

But Jessica is different. She should be the patient, the one that Karen helps.

But she knows things about Karen. Her friends, her personal life. Things no patient should know.

And Karen is starting to wonder if she should have let her in . . .

Amazing! I cannot rave over this book enough.

This is a tale of three best friends who have been friends since nursery who are now in their thirties; Karen is a psychiatrist who has a need to help ‘fix’ people, Bea is a single woman and so-called party goer who is struggling with her past and Eleanor, a wife with two children struggling to adjust with the birth of her three month old baby – each with their own secrets and whose lives are rocked forever when Jessica Hamilton walks into their lives. That’s all I will say about this book as I don’t want to reveal any spoilers!

From the very beginning I was hooked; it was clear something truly bad had happened but it wasn’t until the last page did I truly find out what went wrong and boy was there fireworks!

I loved the characters and found it very easy to become sucked in to the lives of all of them, they were very relatable and I really cared about what happened to each of the characters even the villain which I found refreshing (although after the big twist it forced me to rethink what I thought I knew about each of them – which I loved).

Throughout the story Jenny slowly weaves each of the characters pasts into the main narrative without giving anything away which led up to the fantastic and explosive ending which I never saw coming. This novel really showcased Jenny’s brilliant writing and her clever but devious mind at work.

I loved this story which showed just how destructive relationships can be and how one day can change everything. This is a novel jam-packed full of shocking twists and turns, unreliable narrators, a claustrophobic atmosphere, a terrifying plot and fabulous fully-rounded characters.

It was heart-stopping, confusing, claustrophobic, amazing, terrifying! The author does a fantastic job of leading the reader on a roller coaster of emotions only to flip it all on its head and trust me its worth the read.

Big thanks to Millie Seaward and Headline for my copy of Before I Let You In.

To preorder this book from Amazon click here.

To find out more about Jenny Blackhurst follow her on Twitter @JennyBlackhurst.

Author Interview: David Mark

Today I’m thrilled to have David Mark, author of the DS McAvoy series, joining me for a quick chat all about his new novel Dead Pretty.

Welcome to the CKT blog David!

To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your new book in the DS McAvoy series, Dead Pretty and what sparked your idea for the story?

I spend a lot of time wondering about in the woods and sitting in old churches, letting my mind drift and getting all existential. I was out at this gorgeous little church in East Yorkshire and was just having a bit of a daydream and because I’m the sort of person who plays the music of his life on the black keys, my thoughts turned dark. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I just had this notion that human beings see the sunshine as being full of hope and fairy-tales but nature is a different beast. I was thinking about how ladybirds look pretty until you see them chewing through an aphid. And I imagined a young girl, excited and happy and full of zeal for her clandestine meeting, and the peril she was putting herself in with her big heart and naiveté. It snowballed from there really. I found myself really interested in the sliding scale we use to qualify tragedy. Of course, that all sounds like a very Radio 4 kind of answer, so if you’re after a thrilling police procedural, I hope it ticks that box too. This is the story of a good policeman’s obsession with getting justice – even as a vicious killer exacts justice of their own. It involves armpit-scalping and a murder involving a toilet seat. I’m giving you no more than that.

I love the title of your novel, where did the inspiration for this come from?

That’s a hangover from my journalism days. Whenever there had been a murder it would be up to one of the journalists to acquire a picture of the dead. It was so strange that people thought it was somehow more tragic if the murdered girl was a look. You’d catch people saying ‘she’s dead pretty’ and then feeling awful for being callous.

I found the central investigation into the disappearance of Hannah Kelly and Ava Delaney’s murder compelling with a number of twists and turns I didn’t see coming. Did you plot the story out first or did you dive right in and see where the story took you?

I never dive right in. I’m a careful plotter. Sometimes parts of the narrative take off under their own steam but I like to know how it will end before I begin. I always knew that I wanted to write a story about the character of Reuben Hollow, who may or may not have killed somebody who bullied his daughter. I identify with that character very closely. Don’t judge me.

Who is your favourite recurring character in the series and why?

I think that would have to be Trish Pharaoh, Aector’s boss. She makes me laugh and she writes her own lines, in a way. I think she’s the most believable character I’ve ever written. But I do love the giant, scarred gangland enforcer, Mahon, who disappeared over the clifftop at the end of TAKING PITY and reappeared in the e-book A BAD DEATH. There may one day be a book about his youth, if anybody would like to make me an offer …

There is always a lot of debate about where the best place is for an author to write, where is the best place that you have found to write? And do you have any rituals or writing quirks?

I’m very lucky in that regard. I have a lovely office in my house, full of all the essentials, like books and maps and wrestling figures, and I just get my head down and get on with it. It’s a big change from all the years when I was unpublished – scribbling in notebooks while waiting for juries to return from murder trials.

David Mark ©a r t E A S TJust for fun…if you could collaborate with one author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I always thought it would be an honour to work with Terry Pratchett, but everybody I’ve spoken to says he was an absolute terror, so I may spare myself that. I’m actually very energised by mixed media projects and have half an idea that would work as a graphic novel so perhaps somebody in that area. I’d go into a coma of excitement if I got to work with Alan Moore. But I’m a bit of a control freak so it would be hard to share the creative process, I fear. I suppose if I was brutally honest I would like to have collaborated on one of the so-called ‘classics’ like Pride and Prejudice or Mill on the Floss. Perhaps that way I would have made them vaguely engrossing.

Finally, are you working on anything at the moment? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it without giving too much away?

I’m always working on something! I write constantly. If I don’t, the voices in my head start to scream. I have my first historical crime novel coming out next year and there is another McAvoy, CRUEL MERCY, out in January, taking Aector to New York.  I’ve got a few radio projects up my sleeve and hope to dip my toe in the true-crime market. There’s no rest when you write about the wicked.

I would like to say a huge thank you to David for answering my questions for the CKT blog!

Don’t forget to grab your copy of David’s fabulous novel Dead Pretty which is out now and can be purchased from Amazon here or from Hodder here.

To find out more about David Mark follow him on Twitter @davidmarkwriter.

Killer Review: The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola

First Line: ‘Through her left eye she could see nothing now.’

Blurb: Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola’s THE UNSEEING is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding.

After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?

At the beginning of this story Sarah Gale is sentenced to hang and imprisoned at Newgate Prison to await the date of her execution and petitions the king for mercy. Edmund Fleetwood an idealistic lawyer is commissioned to investigate her petition but Sarah refuses to help at first until after much persuasion she finally starts to reveal her story but is she really telling the truth? And if not, why?

Gripping!

I really enjoyed this novel and loved spending time with both the main protagonists Sarah Gale and Edmund Fleetwood. The novel is told from both their points of view with much of the main action set in Newgate prison. As I was reading I found myself drawn to both characters and sympathetic to the situations they were both in making it hard to decide whether I truly believed Sarah’s story.

At the beginning of each chapter the author reveals an extract of a newspaper article or a book from the time of the murder which I enjoyed as it gave a slice into the life of Victorian London.

As soon as I started to read I was hooked from the very beginning. I could tell straight away that this was a very well researched novel featuring the language of the period through the dialogue and its beautiful and vivid descriptions which showed the tastes, sounds and smells of Victorian London – I felt like I was there with the characters making this an authentic and compelling read which really brought the period to life.

I spent most of the novel trying to figure out what Sarah was hiding and whether Edmund would discover this in time. I do have my own theory about what happened in real life but that was part of the joy of the story to discover what could’ve happened in this fictionalised account of the case and to make up my own theories as I was reading.

I thought this was a gripping page-turner full of beautiful imagery which really brought Victorian London to life. I still can’t believe this is a debut novel and would recommend this to anyone who likes a slice of crime mixed in with history.

Big thanks to Millie Seaward and Headline for my copy of The Unseeing.

To buy this book from Amazon click here.

To buy this book on Waterstones click here

To find out more about Anna Mazzola follow her on Twitter @Anna_Mazz

You can also check out my previous interview with the author here.