Review: Hangman by Jack Heath & The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

I’ve read two debut thrillers this month I’d like to share.

The first is by Australian author Jack Heath who has published over 20 YA novels but has now burst onto the adult fiction scene in a very big way with Hangman.


Sociopath Tim Blake goes by the codename Hangman and is contracted by the FBI as a last resort for his crime solving genius in complex cases. His genius comes with a hefty price tag though and in a despicable arrangement known only to one person within the FBI, he is permitted to take a life for every one he saves.

Despite the unpalatable agreement, Tim Blake is an anti-hero you find yourself backing and the pace of the plot is equivalent to any James Patterson crime novel.

Hangman is the first in a gruesomely dark series to feature Tim Blake and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Warning: you’ll need a strong stomach though.

Hangman has also been optioned for television by the ABC in USA so fingers crossed we see Tim Blake on the big screen soon.

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton is an explosive and impressive debut. Juliette is a sociopath and not coping well after her boyfriend Nate broke up with her six months ago. Juliette is determined to win Nate back at all odds, including joining his airline and training as an airline steward in order to be closer to him.

Juliette really will stop at nothing to achieve her goal, including a little digital stalking, breaking and entering and general harassment. And that’s just for starters. Her daring made me nervous and more than a little edgy at times and the pages flew by as I admired her ingenuity and cringed at her constant need for Nate.

Juliette’s obsession and stalking extends to a few supporting female characters and I hope I never come across a woman like her in real life. Juliette’s master plan is slowly revealed to the reader and her motivations come into shocking focus.

The author’s experience working as a cabin crew member in the airline industry has given her the tools to portray the industry encompassing both characters to perfection. I enjoyed this setting enormously and relished the details of their work schedule, airline culture and lifestyle.

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton is a psychological thriller and one of the most exciting books I’ve read this year.

Review: Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman

isbn9781782066934Peter Spiegelman’s Dr. Knox is an immensely satisfying noir thriller. Though the details of the plot add up to your typical potboiler story of conspiracy and corruption, of the rich and powerful preying on the poor, Spiegelman’s slight (but distinctive) twist on the formula elevates Dr. Knox above its competition.

Dr Adam Knox is a hero in the Philip Marlowe mould — but armed with a stethoscope instead of a gun. Abiding by the tropes of the noir hero, he is a well-intentioned man with a dark past, using his skills and his limited facilities to provide medical care for prostitutes, junkies, and other street dwellers of Los Angeles for whom visiting a hospital is not an option. To help make ends meet — to pay his staff, as well as rent — Knox provides an ambulatory service for LA’s shadier elements, working alongside his friend and former Special Forces operative Ben Sutter.

Knox’s life — and quite literally everyone he knows — is thrown into turmoil when a young woman named Elena deposits her son at the clinic, rushing out the door before questions can be asked. Clearly frightened, and visibly injured, Knox is certain Elena’s life is in danger — and therefore her son’s, too — so instead of contacting child services or the police, he hides Alex, and decides to unravel the mystery of Elena’s whereabouts, and her reasons for abandoning her child. The trail leads Knox into the path of violent Russian gangsters and an overtly corrupt corporation —both of whom will stop at nothing to terminate Knox’s investigation, and locate the mother and son.

Adam Knox is an enjoyable and compelling lead. We are in his headspace for the entirety of the novel, and’s the right mix of capable and completely out of his depth to make him likable. And while some of his past is unshrouded during proceedings, there’s plenty left for Spiegelman to uncover in future novels. The action and medical procedures are suitably hard-core, but never gratuitous (or overplayed), and while there’s some occasional monologuing, it’s thankfully never plodding.

Gritty, intense, and wildly entertaining, Dr. Knox is a damn fine crime novel. If Peter Spiegelman wasn’t on your radar before, he should be now.

Buy the book here…

Review – The Twenty-Year Death

9780857689184As a lover of crime fiction I was literally in awe of this book. It is a crime lover’s dream come true. It is an epic story told in three novels, each in the style of the masters of noir fiction: Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler & Jim Thompson. Each novel stands out on its own and would be worth of a separate purchase and read but together make a crime story that is almost magical.

I have to confess here that I haven’t read any of the three authors Ariel Winter pays tribute to, which is something I am going to rectify in the next 12 months. Georges Simenon was probably the least familiar to me where as Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson were more familiar as it obvious they are the inspiration for so many crime writers today, particularly the darker stuff that I am drawn to.

The first novel, Malniveau Prison, is inspired by Georges Simenon and is set in the small French town of Verargent in 1931. During at torrential rain storm a body is found in the gutter outside the town baker’s house. The man has been stabbed multiple times. Verargent’s small police force is not used to conducting a murder investigation however Chief Inspector Pelleter, from Paris, is in town to visit a prisoner and the nearby prison. Pelleter, who is famous for closing some famous cases, assumes control of the investigation. The murdered man turns out to be a prisoner from the local jail but he hasn’t been reported missing.

The opening story is superbly paced. Like the chief inspector you sense the mystery is bigger that first appearances and the eccentricities of the small town and its inhabitants further compound this sense. As Pelleter digs at the edges of the case and tugs each loose thread the truth is slowly loosened but justice may still prove elusive. Central to the mystery is the murdered man’s young and beautiful daughter and her over-protective husband, a famous American novelist.

The second novel, The Falling Star, is inspired by Raymond Chandler and is set a decade later in Hollywood. Dennis Foster is an ex-cop, turned private eye. He is hired to keep an eye on a movie star who is convinced she is being followed. But Foster is not comfortable in the bodyguard role and following a hunch begins to tail the movie star’s philandering husband, a now famous Hollywood writer. Instead of protecting the movie star he instead implicates her in the murder of her husband’s girlfriend. Foster is quickly fired and shut out of the murder investigation. But he can’t let the case go. He must not only clear the movie star’s name and find the real killer he also must watch his back.

The middle story is full of atmosphere. You can almost see the movie in black & white. Winter channels Chandler with consummate ease and you feel like you are reading a crime classic. Foster cuts a path through the power and influence of Hollywood and down into the darker and seedier parts of Tinsel Town to not only find the truth but also save a woman, not only from those that could do her harm, but from herself too.

The third novel, Police At The Funeral, is inspired by Jim Thompson and is classic noir fiction. The writer we have met in the previous two stories takes the lead. It has been twenty years since we first met him in a small French town. He is now a struggling alcoholic, up to his ears in debt. His first wife has recently passed away and he is in town to find out what, if anything, he stands to get from her estate. Instead his estranged son inherits the entire $2 million estate. After a heavy night’s drinking he confronts his son in an effort to try and reconcile their differences, instead the ensuing argument gets out of control.

The final story is a classic perspective story. Winter puts us right in the head of the struggling writer and we witness first hand hand his desires, motivations and regrets. In doing so we see the form of a killer take shape. We are convinced that the son’s death was an accident but the lengths the writer has to go to cover it up means that there is no coming back.

This book is a true masterpiece of crime writing and for it to be the author’s debut is a remarkable accomplishment. It shows the depth and breadth of what is possible within the crime genre and is a hugely satisfying read. And it has inspired me to visit some of the classics of the crime genre.

Buy the book here…