Review: ‘Stone Cold Heart’ by Caz Frear ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

A fractured marriage.

A silent family.

A secret that connects them all.

When DC Cat Kinsella is approached by Joseph Madden for help with his wife, Rachel, there’s not much she can do. Joseph claims that Rachel has been threatening him, but can’t – or won’t – give Cat details as to why. Dismissing it as a marriage on the rocks, Cat forgets about it.

That is until Naomi Lockhart, a young PA, is found dead after a party attended by both Joseph and Rachel and Joseph is arrested for the murder. Joseph says his wife is setting him up. His wife says he didn’t do it. The trail of evidence leads to even more questions…

Adulterer. Murderer. Victim.*

Who would you believe?

REVIEW:

Wow! Jaw-dropping and addictive, I absolutely loved this book and knew I was in for a great read as soon as I read the prologue. Ms Frear has a new fan in this reader after this tantilising thriller.

Twenty-two year old Naomi Lockhart is found dead by her housemate. She was last seen at a party at her boss’s house Saturday night and has been missing from work the last two days. DC Cat Kinsella and Murder Investigation Team 4 are called in to investigate and quickly learn that she died not long after the party. The evidence leads them to a suspect: Joseph Madden, the brother-in-law of Naomi’s boss. He’s not a stranger to Cat, he owns a local coffee house and even spoke to her a few months ago claiming his wife, Rachel, is threatening him and asking what he can do about it. At the time Cat viewed it as overblown marriage woes, but now he’s claiming Rachel is framing him for murder. Rachel is clearly terrified of her husband and does nothing but protest his innocence and Joseph’s claims seem like nothing but a desperate way to put the blame elsewhere.

Information trickles slowly and reluctantly from their witnesses, frustrating the police but making for an electrifying read. Is Joseph capable of murder? Is he their man? As things are revealed Cat is reluctantly dubious and it seems their witnesses are all keeping more secrets that are yet to be told. Who killed Naomi?

Cat Kinsella is a unique protagonist. She, and this book, stands out in the sea of police procedurals because of her flawed and complex character. She breaks the rules, keeps secrets and has told many lies, has a shady family, is dating someone she shouldn’t, and yet she is someone we love and can root for despite all her mistakes. I wanted her to win. I wanted her to conquer her shame of where she’s from and the toxic family she was raised in. I want her inappropriate relationship to work. She was wonderfully written and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading her.

One of the things I enjoyed about this novel was the array of unreliable and morally ambiguous characters, including almost every witness. I found myself both loving and hating so many of them and could never quite be sure what the truth was or what side they were on, other than their own, of course. Joseph Madden was a perfectly written narcissistic abuser. He made my blood run cold from his first appearance and I desperately wanted him to be guilty simply because he was such a vile person. With Rachel the author depicted the terror, shame and guilt of an abused partner in a realistic way. Your heart breaks for her over and again and you just want to make her see sense and get away from her destructive relationship.

I didn’t realise before starting that this was book two in a series. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of it though as the author not only gave enough information to catch you up on events as needed, but it all sounds so juicy that she sold the book to me while I was reading and I immediately bought it when I finished. I loved the author’s writing style, particularly the banter between Cat and her colleagues and the wit that had me laughing out loud on many occasions.

The final part of this fabulous, twisty thriller had me on tenterhooks wondering who did what and reeling from each bombshell. After the shocking concluding sentences, I am now impatiently waiting for book three and to find out what is next for Cat. I can’t recommend this book or this author highly enough.

Thank you to NetGalley, Bonnier Zaffre and Caz Frear for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: June 27th.

 

Review: ‘We Were Killers Once’ by Becky Masterson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

In 1959, The Walker family murders shook Florida. As many as 587 people were considered suspects – but 60 years on the investigation remains unsolved.

Former FBI agent Brigid Quinn has been obsessed with the Walker case since she was a child. She believes it holds striking similarities to another high profile investigation of the time: the Clutter family murders, made infamous by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. What if Perry Smith and Dick Hickock – executed for those murders – had killed again? And what if there was a third killer, who remained unknown?

Jerry Beaufort has just been released from prison after decades behind bars, and though he’d like to get on with living the rest of his life, he knows that somewhere there is a written record of the time he spent with two killers in 1959. But following the path of the letter will bring Jerry into contact with the last person he’ll see as a threat: Brigid Quinn.

From the author of Edgar Award finalist and CWA Gold Dagger shortlisted Rage Against the Dying comes this unputdownable and fascinating alternative look at one of America’s most famous crimes.

I have been fascinated with the Clutter murders ever since I read In Cold Blood over twenty years ago. So when I saw that this novel offered an alternative look at that case and one that was linked to it I couldn’t wait to read it.

Brigid Quinn was just six-years-old when she first heard of the Walker family murders when her police officer father and his work buddies were discussing the case as she sat on his knee. Since that night she has been haunted by the unsolved case. Sixty years later she is a former FBI agent living with her husband, Carlo, in Arizona unaware that the case that’s been her obsession is about to affect their lives in unexpected ways.

Jeremiah Beaufort is being released after thirty three years in prison. But before he can enjoy his new found freedom he has business to take care of. Business that has threatened to catch up to him for most of his life. As he follows the trail of a confession by an old acquaintance, he is led to Arizona and a former priest named Carlo DiForenza. What he doesn’t realise is that it has also led him to the man’s wife, Brigid, who is passionate about finding the same answers that he’s trying to bury forever.

The author has created a perfect amalgamation of true crime and crime fiction with this gripping and believable novel. I love both genres and loved how she brought them together. I admit that part of my enjoyment of this book came from my fascination with the Clutter murders. Both main characters are connected to the infamous case in different ways and I loved the alternative version that was explored in this novel.

One potential drawback of this book is that both of the main characters aren’t likeable. Beaufort is unlikable in the right ways; we aren’t supposed to like the bad guy. He sees himself as intelligent and being called stupid or evil are his pet hates. Despite all he’s done he thinks he can’t be a bad person and justifies most of his actions. His many years in prison have made him an alien in the modern world and I thought that this aspect was written particularly well and allowed for some much needed humour at times. Brigid’s character could have been likeable but I found her obsession and jealousy of her husband’s late wife tiresome and felt like instead of humanising her, it undermined her  intelligence and made her appear whiny. It is good for a character to be flawed but I felt this flaw went a little too far. I did like that she maintained an understandable suspicion of people and would do anything to protect those she loved. She clearly has a great gut instinct and isn’t afraid to follow it.

We Were Killers Once is an intriguing, absorbing thriller. I didn’t know when I requested it that it is book four in a series and didn’t feel like I missed anything reading it as a standalone. A mix of fascinating fiction with tantalising fact re-imagined and woven through the pages, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves crime fiction and true crime.

Thank you to NetGalley, Orion and Becky Masterson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: June 13th.