#BlogTour #BookReview The Santa Killer by Ross Greenwood

The Santa KillerWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Santa Killer by Ross Greenwood. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Boldwood Books for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Do check out the posts by my tour buddies for today, Jen at Jen Med’s Book Reviews and over on Instagram, Deb at Debs Book Reviews.

The Santa KillerAbout the Book

The Santa Killer is coming to town…

One night less than two weeks before Christmas, a single mother is violently assaulted. It’s a brutal crime at the time of year when there should be goodwill to all. When DI Barton begins his investigation, he’s surprised to find the victim is a woman with nothing to hide and no reason for anyone to hurt her.

A few days later, the mother of the woman attacked rings the police station. Her granddaughter has drawn a shocking picture. It seems she was looking out of the window when her mother was attacked. And when her grandmother asks the young girl who the person with the weapon is, she whispers two words. Bad Santa.

The rumours start spreading, and none of the city’s women feel safe – which one of them will be next

He’s got a list. It’s quite precise. It won’t matter even if you’re nice.

Format: ebook (437 pages )                    Publisher: Boldwood Books
Publication date: 12th September 2022 Genre: Crime

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My Review

I only discovered the DI Barton series when I joined the blog tour for the previous book, The Fire Killer, which was book five. Now we’re at book six and what may be the last outing for DI Barton although you never know what the New Year might bring. (In fact, the author is embarking on a new crime series set in Norfolk, an extract from which is included at the end of the book.)

As in The Fire Killer, I enjoyed the glimpses into Barton’s home life. It’s his family that keeps him grounded, especially his wife Holly. However, the run-up to Christmas sees him more conscious than ever of the toll his work takes on him, and on them: the long hours, the missed family events, those late night phone calls, the dangerous situations he may be confronted with.

The book’s structure follows the pattern of the previous book opening with a dramatic scene whose relevance will take some time to be come clear. From that point on the story switches between Barton’s investigation into a series of assaults on women by a perpetrator who may have adopted a seasonal disguise but is definitely not the bringer of festive greetings, and the first person narrative of The Santa Killer. We know a few details about their background, witness their actions and the impulses that drive them but we don’t know their identity. But when we find out, that should be it shouldn’t it? Think again.

The Fire Killer took place against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact that lockdown had on people. The author incorporates a range of social issues into The Santa Killer including mental illness, marital breakdown and financial hardship, the sort of stresses and strains that can bring out the worst in people but perhaps should also be treated with compassion. Through Barton’s eyes we also get an insight into the pressures on the criminal justice system and its inability always to deal appropriately with vulnerable individuals.

Barton adopts his customary painstaking approach to the investigation, forced to carry out much of the legwork himself because there are simply no other resources available. However, when he is able to use some of his old team, he’s great at encouraging ideas, welcoming thoughts about different possible angles and, of course, recognising the value of the hunch. ‘Good coppers had hunches. That was why they were the best. Hunches didn’t help prosecutions, but they kept you in the game. They kept you focused. Any break might be a small one. You needed to be ready and looking.’ 

Talking of being ready and looking, as I read The Santa Killer I carefully made a list of possible suspects – it turned out to be a long list – but, no doubt to the author’s delight, I had to cross through each and every name on it. Yep, he fooled me with an ingenious addition to the narrative.

The Santa Killer is a cleverly constructed, pacy and engrossing crime mystery. I shall be sad to say farewell to DI Barton and his team – especially the banter between Barton and Sergeant Zander – but I’ll look forward to reading the author’s new series, this time starting from the beginning.

In three words: Intriguing, absorbing, clever

Try something similar: Requiem in La Rossa by Tom Benjamin

About the Author

Ross Greenwood is the bestselling author of over ten crime thrillers. Before becoming a full-time writer he was most recently a prison officer and so worked everyday with murderers, rapists and thieves for four years. He lives in Peterborough.

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#BlogTour #BookReview Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson

Sometimes People Die Blog Tour Banner Week 2-2Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson. My thanks to Sofia at Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy. Do check out the posts by my tour buddies for today, Joanna at Over The Rainbow Book Blog and Amanda at Ginger Book Geek.

Sometimes People DieAbout the Book

The year is 1999. Returning to practice after a suspension for stealing opioids, a young Scottish doctor takes the only job he can find: a post as a senior house officer in the struggling east London hospital of St Luke’s.

Amid the maelstrom of sick patients, over-worked staff and underfunded wards a darker secret soon declares itself: too many patients are dying.

Which of the medical professionals our protagonist has encountered is behind the murders? And can our unnamed narrator’s version of the events be trusted?

Format: Hardback (368 pages)             Publisher: The Borough Press
Publication date: 1st September 2022 Genre: Crime, Thriller

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My Review

I really enjoyed this fascinating mix of medical memoir, with its realistic insight into the challenges of being a junior doctor in a busy hospital, and intriguing murder mystery. I suspect anyone who has ever worked in a hospital setting will recognise the long hours, the exhausting night shifts, the challenge of scarce resources, the neverending paperwork and the snatched meal breaks depicted by the author.  And, of course, the life and death decisions junior doctors are required to make, often in a state of near exhaustion. Those in the medical profession will no doubt also be impressed by the level of detail of diagnostic techniques, medical interventions and drug regimes, something that could surely only come from someone with the author’s background.

The voice of the unnamed narrator is sardonic, cynical and displays the black humour that is often a prequisite for getting through the day, for processing the traumatic things witnessed day in and day out, and coming to terms with the fact that despite best efforts ‘sometimes people die’. Having said that there’s also lot of gentle humour. For example, the ‘granny-dumping’ that occurs on Fridays preceding a summer bank holiday weekend, our narrator’s sessions with his narcoleptic CBT therapist or the medical examination case study that turns out to be a little difficult.

Our narrator is unsparing when it comes to admitting his own weaknesses, meaning the reader never loses sympathy with him even during his most serious lapses and expecially when he finds himself under suspicion of involvement in what turns out to be a case of murder. His compassion and dedication to his patients is never in doubt, unless of course you agree with the detectives assigned to the case that’s he’s the obvious culprit. I particularly loved his friendship with the affable George whose offer of a room allows him to escape from his previous accommodation, aka Stalag Motorsport.

For those beginning to think this sounds too much like a medical memoir, I can reassure you that at the heart of the book is an intriguing, cleverly constructed murder mystery with plenty of red herrings and false trails… or should that be debatable diagnoses and misleading symptoms. There are unexpected revelations akin to suddenly drawing back the cubicle curtains around a hospital bed and at one point a rather different form of intensive care. And I don’t think there are many books where a cactus and an articulated skeleton called Patrick play a significant role in the story, although I’m happy to be corrected on that.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book are the occasional sections that describe real life murderers who practiced medicine, from famous cases such as Dr. Crippen and Harold Shipman to less well-known ones. What’s surprising – or perhaps depressing is a better word – is how long in some cases it took for their crimes to be discovered, either through negligence or a kind of medical omerta.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sometimes People Die‘s blend of dark humour, skilfully constructed plot and convincing detail.

In three words: Clever, witty, intriguing

Simon StephensonAbout the Author

Simon Stephenson originally trained as a doctor and worked in Scotland and London. He previously wrote Let Not the Waves of the Sea, a memoir about the loss of his brother in the Indian ocean tsunami. It won Best First Book at the Scottish Book Awards, was a Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4, and a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year.

His first novel, Set My Heart to Five was a Bookseller Book of the Month and was described by the Daily Mail as ‘Funny, original and thought-provoking.’ It has been optioned by Working Title Films to be directed by Edgar Wright from Stephenson’s screenplay.

He currently lives in Los Angeles, in a house where a famous murder took place. As a screenwriter, he originated and wrote the Benedict Cumberbatch starrer The Electrical Life of Louis Wain and wrote the story for Pixar’s Luca. He also contributed to everybody’s favourite film, Paddington 2.

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