Vendetta by Dreda Say Mitchell

Published by Hodder in paperback on 6th November 2014, it is also available as an ebook. My thanks to Hodder and Bookbridgr who kindly sent me my review copy.

Vendetta is the first in a new series of thrillers set in the dark and murky world of undercover police officers.

Two murders. Two different crime scenes. One killer?

Mac wakes in a smashed up hotel room with no recollection of what has happened. With his lover's corpse in the bathroom and the evidence suggesting that he killed her, Mac is on a mission to uncover the truth and find the real killer.

But he's in a race against time, with less than a day to unravel the mystery. Still reeling from a personal tragedy Mac isn't afraid of pain. Hot on his heels is tenacious Detective Inspector Rio Wray. Double-crossed and in the line of fire, Mac has to swim through a sea of lies to get to the truth.

But only Mac knows he's been living a double life. Can he be sure he doesn't have the blood of a dead woman on his hands?

This is the first crime novel I have read in a while, they used to be all I would read. I stopped reading them when I didn't come across anything that seemed original.

Firstly Vendetta is the most original crime novel I have ever read, it is punchy, pacy and you are driven through a narrative with the hurtling speed of a freight train. This novel delivers an ending that I never would have guessed in all of my days and it comes at you like a bolt of lightening and leaves you sat there shocked, numbed and wanting more.

Short sharp chapters help deliver the pace with the whole story being set in 24hrs. Hard to believe so much happened during that time, the twists and turns in the plot and the way they sneak up on you are just astonishing. As a reader you start to believe one thing and then something else happens immediately to change your mind.

What I liked most about this book is the fact that as the plot developed so did the characters. Oh how I adore flawed characters, for after all none of us are perfect, such a being doesn't exist. It was hard to like any of the characters and I would guess not one of them is fully reliable. There is more than one Vendetta going on. Characters that are out for there own gain and will step on anyone that gets in their way.

By far my favourite, and it is hard to have a favourite is DI Rio Wray. I loved her feistiness and strength of character. I can't wait to read more about her in future.

If intelligent, credible crime novels are your thing then please read this, and prepare yourself to be astounded.

Dreda Say Mitchell grew up on a housing estate in East London. She is an award winning novelist, broadcaster, and freelance education consultant. Some of her work can be described as truly inspirational.

Our Zoo by June Mottershead

Published in hardback by Headline on 9th October 2014. My thanks to them and Bookbridgr, for sending my copy to review.

Chester is the largest Zoo in the UK with over 11,000 animals and 400 species. Unlike other zoos that owe their existence to philanthropists, explorers or big game hunters, Chester Zoo was the brainchild of one working-class man with a dream he had nurtured since he was a boy: to build a zoo without bars.

June Mottershead was four years old when her father, George, moved his family to Upton near Chester. He wanted to make his dream a reality. June had a sister Muriel who was 10 years older than her. There were no other children around and so at that age, June's closest friends became the animals. She befriended an orphaned chimpanzee and the pair soon became inseparable. June became the poster girl for the zoo and was on the front pages of Newspapers, had her picture taken with the animals. June took over as head keeper when war broke out in 1939, most of the staff had to head off to war. It was a difficult time, trying to keep the zoo running whilst the war went on. It was hard with things such as rationing to keep all of the animals fed. It was a constant battle having to move them inside when the air raid siren sounded.

I very rarely read non - fiction, but I couldn't resist this one. It contains many delights and Penelope Dening has captured the details superbly. This book portrays the harsh and sometimes brutal landscape of the time evocatively, respectfully and with the right amount of humour.

The true delight of the story was the many, wonderful animals. Some that I have to admit to never having heard of. A true tale of standing up in the face of adversity and challenges and making your vision a reality. The fact that the Zoo is there today is testament to that.

The book starts in 2012, the year that June's husband Fred passed away and ends in 1949 with their marriage, Fred also worked at the Zoo. Intentionally or unintentionally, I thought that was a fitting tribute to him.

Tiny criticisms and some to be expected given the breadth of time the book covers is that some of the memories seem a little sketchy and I got a bit confused as to who certain relatives were. I also thought that the book ended abruptly, or maybe that is the sign of a good story. I would have liked to have known what happened with the Zoo after June's marriage, for example did her father continue to run things?. This of course is minor in the scheme of things, this is after all June's story, her memories and I feel privileged for the few short hours I was reading, to be a part of them.

June Mottershead is now in her eighties, she is the guardian of her family's legacy. Her story and that of her legacy has been made into a recent dramatisation for the BBC.