Child’s Play, Blacklands, Tigerlily’s Orchids, Harm Done, and The Surrogate

I received a free digital copy of Child’s Play by Angela Marsons, Book 11 in the Kim Stone series from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

I have read a couple other books in the Kim Stone series and enjoyed them, so I was interested when I saw Child’s Play available on NetGalley.  This is book 11 in the series and the character of Kim Stone has definitely show growth over time.  In this installment, a serial killer is at work leaving his victims displayed with gruesome references to childhood play.  Kim and her team along with new addition, Tiffany, work through the clues that lead them to the doorsteps of a  child genius competition and to some former child geniuses.

The characters here were well developed and interesting.  There was a good effort made to give a balanced presentation of  the child genius competition/education industry.  The mystery was well laid out  and the story line is fast paced keeping the reader turning the pages.  A very good installment in this series.

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer is not really  a mystery, more of a psychological thriller.  We know who the bad guy is and what he did.  We know who the protagonist is and what he is trying to do.  The whole point of the books is that 12 year old Steven is matching wits with incarcerated pedophile serial killer, Arnold Avery, in an attempt to lay his Uncle Billy to rest and give his family resolution.  This is a study of the aftermath of a the murder of a child, what it does to a family for generations.

This was an excellent read.  Steven as a character is a protagonist you can really root for in his quest, which in its own way is epic.  Arnold Avery is intricately crafted to be vile and yet compelling, the reader wants to know what makes him tick.  Steven’s desire to heal his family and make them whole again, which is such a relatable desire, pulses through the entire story.  Themes of grief, love, and family are all represented here.

Tigerlily’s Orchids by Ruth Rendell  takes the loves and lives along a small street in London and explores both the beauty and ugliness that exists there.  The characters span a wide breadth of “types” a wealthy trust fund pretty boy having an affair with a lawyer’s arm candy wife, the alcoholic aging divorcee, an couple of ex-hippies reunited now in their sunset years, a trio of college girls from disparate backgrounds,  a caretaker with deviant desires, a mercenary gossip hungry cleaner,  some non-English speaking immigrants, etc.

The novel meanders its way through the residents lives until inevitably someone ends up dead.  Well written mystery with a slow almost leisurely pace, there is this mounting sense of mild tension as the reader waits for what they know must be coming. This is a mystery much more about the journey and the views than the murder itself.

Harm Done is another book by Ruth Rendell, however it is much different due to being part of the Inspector Wexford series.   The crimes start off right from the beginning.  A very puzzling mystery, puzzling for Wexford as well, because even though it seems like the victims are okay, he doesn’t want to let it go.  The third victim is an infant and that changes everything. The resolution here is actually quite tragic.  Very good read.

The Surrogate by Tania Carver reads like it was ripped right from the headlines as there was a similar crime  that made national news recently.  In the novel close to term, pregnant young women are being killed and the killer is attempting to remove the babies, not successfully, at first until he gets better at it.  This was a very dark, gritty, and gruesome read.  Themes of child abuse, self mutilation, mental illness, and gender identity are all wedded into the plot.  Well written and very timely.




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