Liar, Liar – M J Arlidge

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This is the fourth of a crime series featuring Detective Inspector Helen Grace, and as I said in my review of the third book, she is:

“…a female character of some complexity and depth, and for that alone we should be grateful.

Last time around, I wasn’t overly impressed, but was willing to give the author another chance. Well, I am glad I did. This book is much better than the last.

Once again, Grace is the key character. There’s a dangerous arsonist at loose in her city, and the pressure rises as the body count rises. Can Grace hold it all together – because again she has a lot on her plate – and catch the perpetrator?

The tension is gripping. The writing is sharper, and the short chapters deliver a very good page turning experience. However, while the story is cracking along, there are one or two well done – and not overdone – moments of sharp observation; times when the author fleshes out the world that is being described.

There is a fine game of smoke (ahem) and mirrors going on as the author drops the clues unobtrusively, while the plot is ever so slowly unwrapped.  The story, when viewed in retrospect, is a dark, dark tale, well told. It fits together like the much compared jigsaw, and does not stretch the imagination too much. And the twists are well crafted, too.

Grace is an interesting, believable, character. By way of a bonus, some of the subsidiary characters are nicely built up to bring a better range to the story and the background.

I was not impressed by the editing in the last book. In this I only spotted one clanger, and given how much I enjoyed it can only congratulate whoever was responsible on a job well done.

On the whole, a much better book, and one that means I will be waiting keenly for the next. Recommended as an easy, entertaining, chilling read. A good one.

 

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The Doll’s House – M J Arlidge

This is the third of a crime series featuring Detective Inspector Helen Grace, a female character of some complexity and depth, and for that alone we should be grateful.

In this book, Grace – while battling internal enemies and worrying herself sick about her missing nephew – tackles a serial killer who likes to kidnap and kill young girls. We are given a good insight to the character of the latest victim, and that is some of the strongest writing in the book.

The hunt for clues and the general progress of the police investigation did not come across so well, with some of the writing very much falling into the let me tell you what’s going on here, dear reader mode. The baddie’s portrayal is a bit lackluster, too. That having been said, the author does more than enough to build up the tension nicely.

The plot was passable, the pacing – as hinted above – was good, the characters a mixed bunch, and all in all this was an OK book, rather than a great read. I have this suspicion – completely untested – that a quality editor let loose on the manuscript could have really sharpened the impact. As it was, it came across as just another crime book, with only Helen Grace to make it rise above the masses.

I won’t be reading any of the earlier books, but will probably keep an eye open for newer outings to see if things improve.

 

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