Quercus | 29 September 2022 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 

This is the third installment of Elly Griffiths' Harbinder Kaur series and I've to admit I'm addicted to this series since book one. While each book can be read as a standalone, I'd recommend reading them in order for the characters developments. 

The story begins with Harbinder now serving in the Met as a DI in the Homicide and Serious Crimes Unit and her first case involved a prominent MP who is found dead during a school reunion party at Manor Park School. At first glance, Garfield Rice's death seems likely to link with drug overdose with the syringes found at the crime scene but forensic later claims that this isn't the case. 

To complicate matters, Harbinder's subordinate, DS Cassie Fitzgerald, is present at the same reunion party. She and Garfield were schoolmates alongside with a few others who are known as "The group" back during their school days twenty one years ago. While this group of seven members differ in characteristics, status and moral values, they've one secret which they've shared within themselves - the murder of a schoolmate named David Moore and they're all complicit in the crime, though it is also stated early on in the story that Cassie was directly involved. As the story progresses, Harbinder couldn't shun the feelings that these two cases might be related despite the years apart. Is Garfield's death simply a political motive given his upcoming campaign and some enemies he'd met along the way? Or is it Cassie or one of "The group" who wouldn't mind killing again for some reason? 

The story was told in three narratives with present and past timeline: Harbinder, Cassie and Anna (one of the group members) and each of their voices add intrigue and depth to the story. Harbinder has become one of my favourite female detectives and I loved her calm, competence and meticulous mind in her investigations. She's family oriented (she's single but she's close with her parents) and I enjoyed reading her relationship with her two flatmates and her two other invaluable subordinates, DS Kim Manning and DS Jake Barker (both whom I hope we'll see more of in this series). Also, the London setting and Bleeding Heart Yard (a courtyard in Holborn. Read more here) add intrigue and atmosphere to the suspense and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Overall a good read if you love police procedural and a strong female character. 

Harbinder Kaur Books in order

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Michael Joseph | 29 September 2022 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 

This is a compilation of a passion project (and not to mention her debut short story collection) C. J. Tudor had put on the back burner, but decided that instead of scrapping a book which she didn't feel good enough due to the difficult times she'd been through (the pandemic and her father's passing), she thought that this shorts collection seemed like the perfect opportunity instead of skipping a publication year (in 2022) and letting her readers and her publishers down. 

I rarely read short stories, but I couldn't turn this book down because it's Tudor's and this is one of my favourite genres. Without further ado, here's my brief write-up of the eleven tales and my favourites highlighted in red. 

End of the Liner - A scary story about a virus obliterated the world and for decades people are living their life on giant cruise ships in the middle of the ocean. There're rules within the cruise and while the passengers are more or less satisfied with their confined life, something seems to be off. 

The Block - A group of friends decided to explore an abandoned building and stumbled upon some scary creatures. 

Runaway Blues - This is a story about twisted love and revenge. The ending is not what you'll think and expect. 

The Completion - A ruthless property agent who'd do anything to get the deals sealed, until he meets his next client - a strange old man living in Bragshaw Manor. 

The Lion at the Gate - A graffiti that comes alive? Perhaps you'll have to think twice before touching that paintings in this short. 

Gloria - Gloria first appeared in Tudor's second novel, The Taking of Annie Thorne. The author had a huge soft spot for this character and always felt that there was a possibility that she might one day return. So here it is - a chanced encounter between a hardened mercenary and a girl with a strange gift (you wouldn't guess this one.)

I'm Not Ted - This story was super short, and a bit strange. A person who claimed he wasn't Ted found himself in a luxurious building with everything nice equipped. A mistaken identity? Probably not. Just a test of your temptations resistance. 

Final Course - In an apocalypse world of darkness, a father and daughter travel along eerie country lanes after an invitation for a reunion gathering at an isolated manor. The manor is exceptional, except that the good old schoolmates have somewhat changed. And the host has a motive - a plan to engage his invitees to commercialize the apocalypse, but it comes with a price. 

The Copy Shop - What if you could replace anything old or broken with a copy better than the original? An original tale about reproductions with a bit of Stephen King vibes. 

Dust - A woman went to Gran Canaria to escape from her past. The stay at Villa de las Almas Perdidas was supposed to be a great escapism, but then there's Calima wind and the place was often coated with layers of fine sand. But this wasn't the worst, she'd have to remember what she'd done in the past or she'd never leave. 

Butterfly Island - A frightening story about killer butterflies and a murderous psychopath roaming the island. There's no closure to the ending, and the author stated that this is one of her favourite short stories that she might expand it into a novella one day (Please do! I want to know what happened in the end!)

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Pushkin Press | 2 September 2021 | 304 pgs
Source: Library 
Translated from the French by Louise Rogers Lalaurie

The blurb read like a psychological thriller but it was actually more like a noir fiction centering on domestic abuse and the interactions between the perpetrator and the victim. 

Sandrine has a low self-esteem and often views herself as a fat and ugly woman. Constrained by the harsh society's standard and her self loathing views (much often contributed by her unhappy childhood), she lives her life miserably alone until she meets Langlois; a man whose wife has mysteriously gone missing and is left with their young son, Mathias. For a while, Sandrine is happy living with them as Langlois seems to be good and attentive to her. But, Sandrine does wonder about his missing wife at times and how she's the "Second Woman" given her plight. It's not long when Langlois becomes a selfish and manipulative man who starts controlling Sandrine, leading her to become submissive and always wary of his moods and behaviours. The story then starts to shift when Langlois's missing wife returns. 

I've to admit this story was hard to read in so many ways. First off, the extensive self-loathing thoughts of Sandrine and the abusive relationship between her and Langlois. Then, there's the omission of quotation marks (in which I'm not a fan of) and also the story is more "telling" than "showing" but I understand the latter as a form of writing style given the first person narrative. In spite of the darkness of the story, little Mathias was the saviour to me as his appearance and his child innocence lit some light during my reading journey. This is not a book for everyone yet it's an important subject which we cannot ignore or turn away from. 
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