‘All the Wicked Girls’ by Chris Whitaker

 

Tall Oaks’, Chris Whitaker’s 2016 novel of small town American intrigue revolving around the disappearance of a three-year-old boy was an incredibly assured debut and trumpeted the arrival of an impressive new talent. Rightly acclaimed, it is a brilliant read, a pitch black yet hilarious and touching tale that brought to mind the work of David Lynch, in particular ‘Twin Peaks’, and films such as ‘Fargo’.

So the big question: after such a striking first offering, would Whitaker’s sophomore effort suffer from ‘difficult second album syndrome’? Could he produce the goods again, and cement his reputation as one of the most unique new voices in the crime writing genre?

Set in 1994, ‘All the Wicked Girls’ introduces us to the small Bible Belt town of Grace, Alabama, with its people reeling from ‘The Fear’: a series of unsolved disappearances of local girls, all of them church-going, ‘good’ young women. When star student and musical prodigy Summer Ryan vanishes the locals worry that she is yet another victim to add to the ever-growing list. This is the catalyst for Raine, Summer’s troubled sister, and her unlikely sidekicks Noah and Purv to join forces to find the missing girl. What follows is an extraordinary descent into the underbelly of Grace, with its motley collection of disenfranchised characters who are as far removed from ‘The American Dream’ as you could possibly imagine.

Back to that big question: does Whitaker pull it off? Well think season one of True Detective and you’re close to the tone and atmosphere of ‘All the Wicked Girls’. But think of the books of Frank Bill and Donald Ray Pollock and Denis Johnson and Daniel Woodrell too, because this – a glorious, seething, sweaty slice of Southern Gothic – is up there with all of them. Possibly even better than some of their work. What Whitaker has produced here is sublime. ‘Tall Oaks’, as great as it is, was just a taste of what the author had in store for readers – this new book is exquisitely written, with the darkest of hearts, but so beautiful and human and moving that it has been reducing people – me included – to tears. There is writing here that makes your jaw drop, and fills you with joy, and makes you close your eyes and wish that you had the ability to craft something as achingly gorgeous.

This is a crime novel, yes, but it is so much more than that. It is a study of marginalised folk, of broken dreams, of haunted people just trying to get by. It is uplifting and funny and sad. And it is about friendship and lust and grief and the things we will do for our loved ones, no matter how dark the path it takes us down.

But in short, ‘All the Wicked Girls’ is a very special novel, from a very special writer.

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Book Review: Unforgivable by Mike Thomas – Reviewed by chapterinmylife

Book Review: Unforgivable by Mike Thomas – Reviewed by chapterinmylife

#BlogTour: Unforgiveable from Mike Thomas

35004899I am delighted to be taking part in, and indeed closing down, the Blog Tour for Mike Thomas’ #Unforgivable and thank you to Mike and Bonnierzaffre for the ARC and inviting me to take part! Let’s get the show on the road!

What the blurb says:

Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation.
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside.
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . .

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . .

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman.

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.

My review:

#KillerHook Alert! What a killer hook of a start! With the description of the market in full flow – could almost hear, see and smell the riot of colours, tastes and vibrancy before #BANG it exploded into one of the most explosive starts ever! I can tell you it did not let up at all right until the very last page!

DC Will MacReady and the team are thrown into the midst of what appears to be racially motivated attacks in Cardiff City Centre. While Will wants to be in the thick of the investigation his superiors sideline him to investigate the attack on a young girl around the same time of the bombings. Tensions are running high across the force and it is soon clear that the team might be entering a race against time that they just do not have!

I was slightly hesitant to start when reading the book, I hadn’t read the first in the series and I definitely did miss out on a bit of the back story as to why MacReady was in disgrace and just how complex his personal life really was. However, enough information was given to ensure that I could still follow the plot and not feel like I was missing out.

MacReady has obviously been a bit of a naughty boy in the past and his personal relationships take the Facebook Status “It’s Complicated” to a whole new level. This meant that not only was MacReady investigating an attack which involved liaising with devastated parents: trying to get in on the action on the bombing investigation,  he was also caught smack bang in the middle of a massive relationship crisis and this whole tangled affair made for an intense reading experience!…

Continue Reading…

Unforgivable Blog Tour: Book Review and Giveaway with It’s All About The Books

Unforgivable Blog Tour: Book Review and Giveaway with It’s All About The Books
2017 · BLOG TOUR · BOOK REVIEW

Unforgivable by Mike Thomas #Review #Giveaway @ItDahFiveOh @BonnierZaffre

I’m thrilled today to be on the blog tour for Unforgivable by Mike Thomas. This is the second  book in the DI Will MacReady series. I’ll be sharing my review and further down I have a competition to win one of 3 copies.Unforgivable cover

Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation.
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside.
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . .

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . .

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman.

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.

My thoughts

Opening the pages to Unforgivable you are thrown straight into the action, and oh boy is there plenty of action to keep you gripped.

When a bomb is set off in a busy souk there’s pure devastation, utter chaos and sadly very believable scenes. Another explosion is then set off in a Mosque, causing more devastation and to the police, to everyone really it looks like a terror attack and the hunt is on to find the killer. Reading these scenes my heart was in my mouth, I could have been in the middle of the destruction, witnessing it all for real.

There are a few different threads to Unforgivable, so not only is Will Macready on the hunt for the attacker, he has another case to crack as well…

Continue Reading …

Unforgivable Blog Tour: Book Review and Exclusive Extract with Rae Reads

Unforgivable Blog Tour: Book Review and Exclusive Extract with Rae Reads

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Unforgivable by Mike Thomas @ItDaFiveOh #BlogTour #Review @BonnierZaffre

Thank you for joining me on the blog tour for Unforgivable by Mike Thomas I’m delighted to be sharing my review today along with an extract. 

First of all though let’s take a look at the description for the book…

Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation.

An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside.

But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . .

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . .

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman.

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right…

Extract

Just two days after the market and mosque attacks, the city is slowly returning to normal despite the fact the bomber is still on the loose. As MacReady and the team start to make a couple of small breakthroughs in the case, a lone figure walks towards the biggest shopping centre in Cardiff – and he’s carrying a rucksack full of homemade pipe bombs…

So heavy, all this clothing. This rucksack. So hot.

Under cloudless sky he strides towards the entrance, across sculpted lawn and immaculate block pathways, the open space peppered with bag-laden shoppers, with Pret-stuffing businessmen, with giggling teens who sit beneath trees and sup on lattes, on iced drinks, smartphones never more than a few inches from their faces. People forget so quickly. Yesterday, the day after Bessemer, the Al Mahdi, they were fearful. Of enclosed areas, of large gatherings. He saw it on their faces: in railway stations, on buses, in the city centre’s pubs and bars and clubs. A tension there. Anxiety fizzing beneath the surface. Casting sideways glances. Watchful. Nervous. Trying not to appear so.

Now not one of them looks at him. Widens their eyes as they take in his appearance. Reels backward in terror as they push themselves away from him. Even after the news reports this morning, the photograph that is everywhere. There is nothing. Not a flicker of recognition, of anything remotely close to vigilance. Just ignorance and apathy and self-absorption, shocking in their measure, and deserving of punishment.

The skin between his shoulder blades prickles, a square of cold sweat. Head low, tucked into the raised collar. Baseball cap too tight on his head, pinching at hair and scalp. Sunglasses heavy across the bridge of his nose. Hands wrinkled and sopping inside leather gloves that he has jammed into the pockets of his jacket. The hiss of white noise in his ears, growing louder with every step.

Continue Reading…

Book Review: Unforgivable by Mike Thomas – Reviewed by Breakaway Reviewers

Book Review: Unforgivable by Mike Thomas – Reviewed by Breakaway Reviewers

 

Unforgivable by Mike Thomas

4 stars
A slow-burner but worth staying with it….

I really wanted to like this book. It’s written by someone who has first-hand experience of front-line police work and is based in Cardiff and Penarth; places I know well from the 50s and 60s. My heart began to sink though after the first couple of chapters as I couldn’t relate to either the main character or indeed the constant reminders by the author of the effects which budget cuts have had on police numbers and effectiveness.

Things looked up quite quickly though and when they did it was quite a journey.
DC Will MacReady has returned to active duty after being involved in an incident which led to the death of one officer and the serious wounding of another. Many are unwilling to welcome him back and feelings run high in the team although he does have the support of his Inspector and Sergeant. All this becomes secondary though when a bomb explodes in an ethnic market, shortly followed by another at a mosque in Penarth.

Although the author might initially focus a little too much on the way in which the police are overloaded, one effect of this is to introduce a sense of reality. I loathe those crimebnovels where the investigating officer trots off just to deal with the crime in hand with no other pressures. MacReady’s workload is too much for one man to manage effectively and overtime is at a premium. He also has external pressures not only within his personal and private life but also from more senior members of the team…

Continue reading…

Unforgivable Blog Tour – Crime Thriller Hound: The Films and TV That Inspired ‘Unforgivable’

Unforgivable Blog Tour – Crime Thriller Hound: The Films and TV That Inspired ‘Unforgivable’

 

The Films and TV That Inspired ‘Unforgivable’

Guest post by Mike Thomas

 

It’s fair to say I love my films. And I love me a bit of TV, if you discount snooker coverage, soaps and all reality shows – I am proud to admit that I never watched Big Brother after the first series, and wouldn’t know what a TOWIEwas if it kicked me in the plums.

As a writer, I find there’s nothing better than hitting the sofa or cinema chair and soaking up other people’s work as it plays out on the screen. Absorbing it all. Just having that hour or two of mental space away from your own creative endeavours while you enjoy somebody else’s.

There’s a definite link between the novels I write and the things I watch. As a kid, devouring books, I also developed a love for television – Tom Baker’s Doctor Who, for starters – and came to adore the cinema. I can remember sitting with my mother and having the bejesus scared out of me during Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, when the evil Zenobia runs out of the potion required to turn her back into a human. When I saw her foot, mangled and marbled and still that of a seagull, I cowered into my mother and the film’s work was done: I went home and wrote stories where people turned themselves into all sorts of weird and troubling malformed creatures, a cabal of half-human, half-animal horrors.

Now, when I write, I picture the scene as if it were through the lens of a camera – the zooms and quick pans and dolly shots and fades to black. The wipes and overhead crane views, the tracking of characters as they move from room to room. The moving image has had such a profound effect on my life that I can’t work any other way.

So what films and TV shows inspired my latest novel, ‘Unforgivable’? The book covers five days in the UK city of Cardiff, which has been brought to a halt by a murderous bomber who is attacking the populace. I wanted it to be rich with detail, stuff that I learned during my twenty-plus years as a cop. But more than anything else I wanted it to be taught, mean and pacy as hell.

So here’s what I used as a reference. Some of them I love, and watch repeatedly. Some I’ll never watch again, but for just a couple of scenes, they blew me away and fed into ‘Unforgivable’…

To continue reading, click here

 

Unforgivable Blog Tour – Interview and Review with Liz Loves Books

Unforgivable Blog Tour – Interview and Review with Liz Loves Books

 

Unforgivable Mike Thomas – Blog tour Interview and Review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I’m very happy to welcome Mike Thomas, who rather rashly agreed to answer a few questions for me on Unforgivable and other things. A review follows as well (you should get this book it really is pretty darn good and available now!)

So let’s talk about Will MacReady. This is his second outing and you are no nicer to him this time than you were last time. Mean you crime writers are (that is my attempt at a bit of Yoda) So readers coming in have a bit of background – what was the inspiration behind Will and tell us a little bit about his journey before the beginning of Unforgivable.

Impressive Yoda, there. * channels Darth Vader* Most impressive. Where were we? Oh yes. Well first, the name – one of my fave horror films is John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, with Kurt Russell’s protagonist MacReady. I always wanted to use the name as a nod to the movie. And I’ve had the MacReady character in my head since the 90s, when TFI Friday used to be on the gogglebox and Chris Evans’ producer sidekick was called Will – remember when they all used to point at him and say ‘Wiiiiiiiiiiillllllll’? That’s how Will MacReady was named. How daft is that? Anyway, MacReady is basically me when I joined the job: a tad naïve, wants to make the world better, is slightly gung-ho but his heart is in the right place. Give him a few years he’ll be cynical, overweight, have a completely shaved noggin and an addiction to XL kebabs (with coleslaw) while working night shifts – again, just like me….

To continue reading, click here