Shadow Falls. Wendy Dranfield

A religious man Nate had left the process of becoming a Priest to get engaged to the woman he loved, but she was murdered and Nate was wrongly convicted of her Murder

After 17 years on Death row his conviction was overturned and he was released, with a very healthy compensation.

Now he’s making up for lost time. With a penchant for Colombian marching powder, and a love for the ladies he is now an unlicensed Private Detective.

So who else would ex Detective Madison Harper turn to for help.

Madison had been a successful cop, working her way up to being a Detective in Vice and working undercover.

Until she was framed for the voluntary manslaughter of a colleague.

Having served six years of her ten year sentence she was released penniless and without any hope. Working as a waitress amongst an area awash with the prostitutes she shares her accommodation with she has saved every penny she can to hire Nate to help her prove her innocence.

Nate doesn’t want to take the job, especially as Madison still can’t afford him, and her suggestion of working for him for free doesn’t fit in with his style of work, or life. Then there’s the fact that she’s and ex cop and he hates the Police

When a girl goes missing her grandmother contacts Nate to find her, because the local Police are not getting anywhere. So he takes Madison on for a trial period to help him

The first book in a new series rightly concentrates on the main character(s) and their relationship.

The case of the missing girl leads to an investigation that tests that, and their own convictions

Without giving spoilers there are subplots involving Nate and Madison that are going to run through the series, and will make people want to buy into it.

Can it be read as a standalone, yes, but I suspect that once you have read the first, you will want to find out more about this unorthodox and at times unlikely crime fighting team.

Pages: 391. . Publisher: Bookouture Available now

The Bodies at Westgate Hall. Nick Louth

A love triangle.

Three people shot dead

A locked room mystrey

A suspect locked within a room within the locked room

Russian Oligarchs, and conspiracy theories

If that list is not enough to get you hooked maybe this book is not for you. It was definitely for me, what a stunning read.

DCI Craig Gillard is just getting ready for what he hopes to be a quite Christmas on call.

In the Surrey Millionaire belt, the richest of the rich, Alexander Volkov, is having a very noise, very bright, party which is annoying everybody in the neighbouring village.

When a patrol car is sent to see if they can bring an end to the noise they arrive just in time to witness the murder of three people locked in a huge library.

Two of the dead are Oligarchs and it doesn’t take long for the security forces to butt into Gillard’s investigation.

The investigation is run from Surrey Police’s putrid mobile incident room, which has been placed in the grounds of Volkov’s mansion, Westgate Hall

The locals hate the Russian, and his two children, the way they blatantly disregard the law, throwing money at any problem that arises and tearing around the countryside in their sports cars and utility vehicles.

The list of suspects range from the village council members to a Russian Government assassin. Gillard really has his work cut out.

As usual with Nick Louth’s books there are some brilliant characters. Alongside the recurring ones there are some truly brilliant ones. In particular there is Wolf, the marvellous comic Russian bodyguard learning English by watching Only Fools and Horses.

This book, just like the rest of the series, had me from the beginning. I started it on a Snowy Saturday morning and sat and read it all day. It really was a read from start to finish in one go.

I loved it, for the story, the characters, and the setting. Brilliant

Pages: 288. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date: 25th February 2021

Me, my life, my reading

As you can tell from the name of my blog I am a bookworm. If you ask my wife she’ll tell you I’m like a chain smoker, as one book is coming to an end I have to have another ready to read, she’s right, maybe I should have called the blog the book addict.

I couldn’t begin to catalogue the books I have read, so I’m not going to try. What I am going to do is introduce you, to me, by telling you what I was reading, or more like who I was reading, as I made my way from what I call Senior School, or as the kids today call it High School, up to today and hopefully well into the future.

My first conscious memory of reading a book for pleasure, and not because a teacher told me to, was in my first year at Senior School, it was one of the Hardy Boy series by Franklin W. Dixon. I don’t know how I found it or if somebody gave it me. It was a story written about 2 brothers and their friends solving mysteries in America. If you can imagine a cross between Scooby Doo and the Secret Seven then you can imagine what the books were like. To an 11 or 12 year old from a Birmingham Housing Estate this book opened my eyes to the world beyond school and the boredom of home.

Believe it or not I had an evening and Saturday job (at that age) and looked forward to school holidays, and maybe the occasional illicit day off school, when I could catch a Bus into Birmingham and visit WH Smiths or Hudsons Bookshop.

It was on these visits that I started browsing the shelves and realised that there was quite a few books in the series, and so began a habit I still have today. I had to read the series but I had to read it in order. I can actually remember the sales assistant in Hudsons looking over the counter at me when I asked him if it was possible to order books. Looking at the list of these books now, at least 58, I don’t think I ever completed the set but I know I would have got all the ones available in the UK at the time.

My Dad was also a big reader and when I was about 13 I remember picking up one of his discarded paperbacks The Winged Escort by Douglass Reeman. I’m fairly sure it was the cover that attracted me, a painting of a Swordfish plane attacking a battleship, because it resembled the Commando Paperback booklet/comics I spent a lot of time reading.

My trips to Birmingham now resulted in me returning home with a Reeman Naval novel when I failed to find any Hardy Brothers books. I eventually read all of the Douglas Reeman books and think the ones I read before I left school had an influence on my choice of my first job.

The Hardy Boys and Douglas Reemans naval novels were not the only books I read when I was in school. When I wasn’t at school, working, or playing football with friends my nose was firmly in a book, with the radio on in the background. Unfortunately none of the books I read were on the reading list for my English exams, and those that were held no interest to me, so like the rest of my exams, English Literature was a bit of a failure.

I didn’t like school so I left at the earliest opportunity and joined the Merchant Navy just before I was 16. After 13 weeks at the training college (no qualifications required) in Gravesend I had a week at home before joining my first ship. Over the next five years I travelled the world with Shell Tankers UK Ltd on ships of all sizes.

What most people don’t realise about being on merchant ships is that the crews are small, often only 36 even on a Super Tanker. Each crew member has their own cabin and works 8 hours a day. I was a Deck Hand so my days were usually split into 4 hours on 8 hours off seven days a week, 6 months at a time. That’s a lot of down time.

Another thing people don’t know is that there was an unwritten agreement that whenever you joined a new ship you took at least 5 or 6 new paperbacks with you, and that once you had read them you put them in the ships “library”, usually a cupboard in the mess room, where they were picked up and returned by others until they were too tatty to read.

It was on my first ship, a gas tanker that ran backwards and forwards between North Africa and Northern Europe, that I found my next set of novels. Again I was drawn to a painting of a Second World War scene on the cover. Looking on the inside of the cover I found that the author had written a series of books and one of them was semi-autobiographical. I read that one first, The Legion of the Damned introduced me to Sven Hassel and his band of German Soldiers and their exploits during the war.

The ships library had copies of all of the books in the series and I remember lying in my cabin when I’d finished the last one thinking, “what am I going to do now”. The tankers had a great social life and I’d made some good friends, but when I finished the last book I missed the main characters as though they had been real people. Sad I know.

I drifted around the one off novels by people like Hammond Innes and Desmond Bagley. I remember Wilbur Smith and not being able to make up my mind weather I liked his work or not, but I read most of them anyway.

The next must read author I found was Robert Ludlum. The first book I read was The Matarese Circle, it was the first Cold War thriller that really got me hooked, and they stay one my favourite genre today. I managed to read his back catalogue at sea and bought his new books as they were released. Has anybody ever read a better trilogy than the original three Bourne books, I haven’t.

Unfortunately the latter ones by Eric VanLustbader just don’t measure up.

Somewhere along the line I discovered Len Deighton, via his novel Bomber. Although this was a storey based in the Second World War I enjoyed Deightons cold war books nearly as much as the Ludlum books.

One of the last Authors that I discovered whilst at sea was Nelson DeMille, via Cathedral, and By The Rivers Of Babylon, excellent books that introduced the subject of Terrorism into my readings.

So I left the Merchant Navy at the age of 20 and went straight to the Recruit Training Centre of the West Midlands Fire Service to start what would be a 30 year career.

The first 12 years I was in the Brigade I was at one of the busiest, if not the busiest station in the UK. It was a busy time in my personal life as well as wife number 1 came and went, maybe the least said about that the better. But then my second wife came along, followed shortly after by my lovely Daughter. We are still happily married after 30 years, and people said it would never last, and our daughter is now 29 and happily married herself.

During those 12 years I always had a spare time job, there always seemed to be something that needed paying for, but I was never without a book.

Stephen King books came and went. He’s one of those Authors whose books are like marmite to me; I either love them or hate them. Sometimes I’ve been enjoying his books but have had to stop halfway through, not bored but needing to read something else. I always go back and finish them off if I’ve got that far, but there are a few that have been dumped after the first 100 pages. My Favourite King books? Needless Things, Pet Cemetery, and, It, I still hate clowns following that. King wasn’t the first horror author I read.

I remember reading James Herbert’s Rats, and thinking every creak of a floorboard was a rat heading my way. King and Herbert are the only 2 horror authors I’ve ever really read, when they’re good, they are good; but when they’re bad, they really are bad. I just don’t think I’m very good at suspending reality.

So amongst lots of other books in the mid-late 80’s I discovered one of my all-time favourite writers, Tom Clancy. Like millions of other people around the world I read The Hunt for Red October, and I was hooked on the Jack Ryan series but this time I was in from the start and had to wait patiently for each new book, not something I’m good at.

Clancy’s books were the first ones I bought in Hardback as I couldn’t wait for the paperbacks to be published. As well as the Ryan books I enjoyed Red Storm Rising, a one off based on an escalating war which engulfs Europe and threatens to become a 3rd World War. I remember thinking, as I read it, this is uncomfortably close to becoming reality, it is still one of the best books I have ever read.

People often said that Clancy got very close to the truth, and some accused him of having some kind of inside information from the US Government agencies. In 1995 he released Debt of Honor ( I know but that’s how he spelled it, he was American) in which a Japanese Terrorist flies a Boeing 747 into the Capital Building in Washington DC. Again I remembered thinking that was one hell of a way to committee a terrorist attack on the States. We all know what happened on 11th September 2001 I hope Clancy’s book didn’t give somebody the seed of an idea.

Unfortunately I found all of Clancy’s spin off books, written in collaboration with others, the Ops Centre, and Net Force books to be disappointing and gave up on them after the 2nd of each series.

John Grisham is an excellent writer who introduced me to court room dramas. I found Grisham in the early 90’s. I had started to study and was taking Fire Service Exams and needed something to take my mind of the mind numbing lists which made up a lot of the study for those exams.

Grisham transported me to the Southern States to a racially charged murder in A Time to Kill. I have read every one of his books. Sometimes I read that he’s accused of “the same old, same old”, but I disagree. There are 2 things you can be sure of with Grisham; a cracking story, and an unpredictable ending. It’s not always happy ever after with John Grisham.

If you like Grisham I found a new author a few years ago, Greg Iles. He sets his books in the Deep South of the USA and his stories are like Grisham’s but without filters. Think of Grisham being a 12, in cinema verifications and Iles as being an 18

His Penn Cage series of 6 books, which culminates in the Natchez Trilogy are the best US Crime Thrillers I’ve read.

In the mid 90’s I started moving through the ranks in the Fire Service until, in 2000, I worked my way in to my dream post. I spent the last 12 years of my career as a Fire Investigation Officer. Basically, along with 5 other specially trained Officers, we investigated the cause of all; large fires, fires in which people died or were seriously injured, and all major arson cases, in the West Midlands and latterly Staffordshire. As you can imagine the studying got serious at this point as I gained Forensic Qualifications to sit alongside my Fire Service ones, and in that post research and learning never stopped.

I still found time for books but my choice of genre changed.

Considering I now had knowledge of Forensics, and British Police and Court Room procedures I surprisingly started to read books set in these fields. The first Author I found, who shared a Forensic background, was Patricia Cornwell.

Reading the Scarpetta series in order I enjoyed the first six or seven books, when she wrote mainly about the life and investigations of Kay Scarpetta. These were excellent books, the Body Farm, is another book that ranks amongst my favourites; but as her niece Lucy became more of a James Bond Figure in her books they started to lose some credibility with me. Like I said, I have difficulty in suspending reality.

I haven’t read the latest books she has written in the series. For me it’s a shame she moved too far away from reality but somebody must like them, she’s selling millions and good luck to her.

You will have noticed that most of the books I read appear to be by American Authors. I think it’s because more actually happens over there and you can actually imagine most of the stories because they are not far from actual occurrences.

Having said that in the early 2000s I sustained a back injury which tendered me bed ridden for three months before I had an operation to remove and fuse some discs. This was pre e-books and my wife was dispatched to buy my books, which I was getting through at a prestigious rate.

I had loved the Morse TV series since it started, and in an attempt to make things easy for her I asked her to get me Colin Dexters omnibus editions of the Morse Books. These were not only brilliant but in my opinion should be read by High School students to show how society, the Police, the way crime is investigated, and life in general changed through the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.

It was fascinating to read about a pre computerised, pre mobile phone, society. No DNA, blood only matched by type, police officers smoking at crime scenes, officers openly racist and sexist. As the books progressed through the years it was easy to see Morse struggling to come to terms with this new world whilst his Sergeant, Lewis, attempted to keep him on track and in bounds. If I hadn’t read them all, one after another, I might have missed some of the nuances of this.

At the same time I was watching the TV news and was astonished to see that children and adults alike were queuing for nights awaiting the latest in a series of novels by somebody I’d never heard of, J.K. Rowling.

Curiosity got the better of me and I asked my long suffering wife to go back to the book shop and pick up the first of the series, at that time I didn’t even know what it was called, and so the children’s book Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was dropped on my bed with a look of “really” written all over my wife’s face.

Well I was hooked straight away; my wife went and got me the others in paperback. The Goblet of Fire was purchased in hardback, as were the rest of the series as soon as they were released. Yes I was one of the adults standing outside my local Sainsbury’s to buy The Deathly Hallows on the day it was released.

I said earlier that I Had only read 2 horror authors, Herbert and King, that may not be true. Rowlings Harry Potter books got darker as the series progressed. In my opinion The Half Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows, are much darker and scarier than anything else I had read to that time. As a series of books, despite what the critics say, and in agreement with millions around the world, I think it’s one of, if not, the best.

These days I’m at the front of the queue for the Strike books. Long, and rambling, but full of great characters with a brilliant running storyline throughout.

Over the next few years I drifted through several authors Sam Eastland’s Inspector Pekkala books, set against the second world war (again) a Russian detective who works on cases for Stalin.

David Downings Station Books, A series of espionage books about an Anglo-American in Germany at the start of events which led up to World War 2.

Jayne Casey and Sharon Bolton, both write excellent crime drama novels, strong and gritty with twists that take the plot down unexpected avenues.

My wife had been saying I should have an e-book reader for some time, but I was clinging to the fact that I liked books you could hold. I still think opening a brand new book is one of the best feelings; but Christmas 2011 she gave me a Kindle for Christmas. Ok I admit it I was wrong, I’m on my third one now and it goes everywhere with me.

What the Kindle, and the Amazon Store, have allowed me to do is find books and Authors I would never have found by browsing book shelves in any bookstore I happened to pass.

One such writer is one of my current favourites. C.J.Box. C.J.Box is an American author who has written a series of books about Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett. I read about Box somewhere online and found that all of his books are available for the Kindle. I downloaded Open Season and was instantly hooked.

Box’s storylines, his descriptions of the countryside around him and the subplots of his family make for excellent reads. He has also written some stand-alone novels, in which some familiar characters turn up. If you have never read one of his books, get your hands on Open Season, I’m sure you’ll end up buying the lot.

In 2012 after exactly 30 in the Fire Service I hung up my kit for the last time and walked out of my last Fire Station. I now work as a Fire Forensics Consultant and lecturer on Fire Forensics around the World, and travel time equals reading time.

I’ve also been lucky enough to have a few nice long haul holidays, I’m not a good flyer so plane time equals reading time, and we all know that there’s only one thing to do around the pool with a drink in your hand, read.

These days I’m really into crime fiction, especially U.K. and Scandinavian crime.

Mari Hannah and her Kate Daniels series was the first one that really hooked me. That led to one of my all time favourites, Angela Marsons and the Kim Stone series.

Kim’s books are great. They’re set in my local area, which brings a whole new dimension to my enjoyment of a book.

In turn my reviews of Mari Hannah and Angela Marsons led me to the book bloggers website NetGalley.

From there my reading really took off. I now read and review 3 or 4 books a month and have been lucky enough to make acquaintances, via social media with quite a few authors, and some of those have even turned to me for advice on fire scenes in their books.

So what am I reading these days. Crime fiction is still my favourite. Carol Wyer, Graham Smith, Patricia Gibney, are on my favourites to read list.

Most recently I’ve been captivated by Ruhi Choundhary and Noelle Holton, have captivated me and been put on the read-it-as-soon-as-possible list.

One of the up sides about using NetGalley is its saves me a fortune, but that pricked my conscience. Now I have a tin which gets a pound coin put in it every time I download a book from that site. Those coins go into RNLI and Poppy collection tins when I know they are around.

Well that’s me, a short very potted history, of me and my reading habits

Dying To Be Her. Greg Olsen

When an entitled brat, Brianna Connor, has a Halloween Party whilst her parents are away things, surprisingly don’t seem to go to badly.

Unless, that is, you are the naive English exchange student that is inconveniently murdered in the hosts bedroom.

From the beginning of the investigation local Police Chief, Annie Garnett has problems with “This girl is a self centred, condescending brat” Brianna, and her thick-as-a-brick, and equally entitled boyfriend Drew.

In scenes similar to the immediate aftermath of the Meredith Kercher murder, Brianna and Drew, kiss and canoodle, and basically act in a flippant juvenile manner.

Spending more time on social media complaining about her ruined party, and visiting fancy lingerie stores, than helping with the investigation Brianna soon gets under everybody’s skin.

Meanwhile twin sisters Taylor and Hayley believe they have psychic abilities, and think they knew about the murder before the news broke.

When they receive a mysterious text with a case file number and “I know who killed her” written in it, they decide to go all Nancy Drew and try to solve the case.

As this is the first murder for over a decade in the sleepy town of Port Gamble they have just as much experience as Chief Garnett, and it shows.

What follows is two investigations twisting around each other, and often frustrating each other, before reaching a tense ending.

I love the characters and storyline in this book. A few years ago it would have seemed outrageous that teenagers could act in the way Brianna and Drew do, but today we see enough of them on TV to know that they exist.

Olsen has used this to his advantage. The teenagers in this book are despicable yet enthralling.

The Police Chief couldn’t be further removed from most fictional cops. A giant of a woman that finds it hard to buy fashionable clothes that fit her, investigating her first murder, with the main suspects spending more on knickers than she spends on her entire wardrobe.

The book drew me in by setting up my loathing of Brianna, and sympathy for Grant, but took me on a real rollercoaster of a trip right up to the very last page.

Pages: 300. Publisher: Bookouture. Published: 2nd February 2021

The Darkness Within. Graeme Hampton

Before you read this review I have to say that I loved this book.

So why say that. Well I first published the initial review a few months ago, and I’ve just read it back, it does read a little negatively but it’s not meant to. I can’t emphasise enough how good this story is. I was hooked from the first page and enjoyed every twist and turn right up to the last page.

Here’s that original review.

Although this is the 3rd book in a series, and the first I’ve read, it didn’t seem like it. In fact I only realised it was when I came to the end and the authors previous books are listed

Is this a good thing, yes, because it means the book can obviously read as a stand- alone, but as much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t want to go and find the previous books to catch up with the back story.

And that’s where this is a conundrum of a book to review because I really enjoyed the story without engaging with the main characters, DI Matt Denning and DS Molly Fisher.

The story starts with somebody being recognised after 30 years, by somebody else who was a victim. The red mist comes down and……that’s where the prologue ends and sets up the mystery for the rest of the book.

Retired DCI Frank Buckfield is found murdered having lived the last few years of his life in squalor. Some officers remember him fondly but others remember him as a bully who got results any way he could. 

This is followed by a serious assault on an academic. The man had been reported missing by his sister over 20 years ago and had apparently never been found, so how could he have been working in a University so recently. One look at him shows he’s much younger than the man who was reported missing and must be somebody who’s assumed his identity. But why.

The connections between the two victims seems to point back to a major robbery, one that Buckfield had made his name by arresting the major players in. 

Meanwhile a historic child abuse ring starts to appear on the periphery of the investigation. High profile men, including a Judge, and MP and a Senior Police Officer had been abusing young homeless or vulnerable boys.

As the investigation gathers pace some current Senior Police Officers seem to be against some of the lines of inquiry.

Denning and Fisher continue with the investigation against the advice of these officers, and sometimes in isolation from each other.

But are the modern day crimes connected with the historic ones. Is their a serial killer stalking the streets, or is this an act of revenge.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the story and the way the author led me down the occasional cul-de-sac where I was convinced I knew who was responsible, only to have my hypothesis wiped out several times. 

I will read the future books when they come out, but not because I’ve engaged with the characters, which is usually what hooks me into a series, but because the story was so good.

Publisher: Hera. Pages: 288. Available now.

The Silent Suspect. Nell Pattison

The opening chapters in this book contained the best narrative of a house fire, from a civilian witness point of view, I have ever read.

Paige Northwood is a hearing British Sign Language interpreter. When she gets a video call from a client, who is frantically signing at her to phone the Fire Service, because his house is on fire and his wife is missing, she calls the brigade and runs around the corner to where the fire is taking place.

Paige works a Deaf Social worker Sasha, and helps her with clients. It’s one of these clients who’s house is on fire

Lucas is nowhere to be seen when Paige arrives, but is soon pulled out of the building by fire crews, he’s alive but as he sits on the back of an ambulance his wife is pulled out dead.

Hours later Lucas is charged with her murder. Sasha and Paige can’t believe he did it and start to carry out their own investigations.

What follows is amateur sleuthing at its best. Showing a real confirmation bias towards proving Lucas innocent they blunder their way along, and in Paige’s case, from one disaster to another, in a desperate attempt to find out who really killed Lucas wife.

As they start to uncover the truth about what Lucas is really like Paige starts to have doubts.

Running alongside the main story are short flashback chapters that cover the last few hours before the fire

The two main threads intertwine, just as the reader is led down one thread by Paige’s investigation, they are diverted by something that happened just hours before the fire.

This is a great story with great characters.

Pattison uses italics when one of the characters is signing, and somehow manages to get real emotion into the conversations.

Unlike many modern fiction books where murder follows murder she has kept it real with the one main crime, but of course there are a lot of less serious crimes orbiting it. People just don’t get murdered for no reason, most of the time.

I’ve said before how I love a book that gets me researching, and this one did just that. How many of us have given any thought to how deaf people use mobile phones, apart from texting and using the internet.

I got the sneaky feeling that this wasn’t the first book in the series when I was reading it, but I waited till the end to check. It’s book 3 in the Paige Northwood series.

I have to say it reads great as a standalone, but I’m definitely going back to read the first two.

I loved this book for the stubborn, yet naive, way Paige got involved. It was almost like going back to my childhood reading when The Hardy Brothers stumbled across some injustice they wanted to right.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a very grown up book that deals with real emotions in a modern world, there’s even a touch of romance, and do you know what, I enjoyed it.

Pages: 400. Publisher: Avon. Publishing date: April 29th 2021

Who Took Eden Mulligan. Sharon Dempsey

Who took Eden Mulligan could easily be Who Is Eden Mulligan.

This is a belter of a crime novel that is so much more than just a murder investigation.

The book starts with a bloodied and injured young woman staggering into a Police Station, in Northern Ireland, and saying that “they’re all dead” and confessing to killing them before she passes out

The “them” she’s talking about are her 4 best friends and the police quickly find them all in a remote house. 3 are dead, stabbed to death and posed on a bed, the other is clinging to life.

Painted on the wall is a message. Who Took Eden Mulligan

That is where this story can take a massive turn that it couldn’t do if it was set anywhere else in the U.K.

Eden Mulligan went missing from her Belfast home during the troubles.

Since the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement most of us have forgotten what the people of the Country went through, but this book looks at the way the troubles still effect the people of Belfast and the small towns around it

Chief Inspector Danny Stowe is working on cold cases, looking at unsolved murders. When the woman staggers into the Police Station Danny is asked to lead the murder investigation, it’s his way back into Major Investigations. On the same day his best friend from University visits him, and he ropes her in to help the investigation

Dr Rose Lainey is only home for her mothers funeral. She works in England as a Criminal Psychologist and at first is loath to help, but she needs answers herself, especially when they find out who Eden Mulligan, was and when she went missing.

Mulligan was a young attractive woman bringing up her 5 children alone in Belfast whilst her husband worked in England.

Lainey was from the same area, The Markets, and her mother brought up her family alone after her husband was killed. Lainey always thought her mother was part of the paramilitaries, sneaking out at night and being secretive. Lainey had run away from home after her last college exam, away from what she saw as an overbearing mother, and had never returned until she had a phone call to say her mother had died.

Mulligans disappearance was never solved, in fact the police never really took it seriously.

This story looks at The Disappeared of Northern Ireland. People that went missing during the troubles. People taken off the streets by paramilitary snatch squads, taken across the border, tortured and killed. People who’s bodies were never found.

It looks at the effects the troubles are still having on families today, as well as the sectarian violence that was taking place till only a few years ago.

This book could not have been set anywhere else in the U.K.

I’m ashamed to say I’m old enough to know more about the troubles than I did before I started reading this book. I disappeared down a Google worm hole for hours reading about “The Disappeared”

The relationships between Lainey and her estranged family, and her friendship with Stowe, is a brilliant sub plot. In fact both the lead characters in this book have a great story to tell and hopefully there will be more to follow.

Pages: 368. Publisher: Avon. Available: August 2021

Their Frozen Graves. Ruhi Choudhary

The second book in the Detective Mackenzie Price series.

The first book in this series, Our Daughters Bones was one of my favourite reads last year, and it ended on one hell of a cliff hanger.

This book starts where that one left off, with Price opening the door to the surprise of her life.

A thread that starts there runs through the book as a sub plot that was worthy of a book of its own.

At the same time as she’s dealing with that Price has to deal with one of the most original murder investigations I’ve come across for years.

Two bodies are found in melting ice, where a river meets a lake at a local beauty spot. Both women have died from stab wounds, and look so alike that the team speculates whether they are twins.

When one of women is recognised by a police officer, Mack (Mackenzie) and her partner go to talk to the husband, only to have a shock. The woman they thought was dead is at home ill, and yes, she does look a lot like the dead woman.

The post-mortem reveals further shocks as one of the women is found to have undergone cosmetic surgery to make her look like the other dead woman, and they both look like the woman that was ill at home.

The investigation leads the team to the dark web where somebody is putting adverts out for women who look similar to specific other women, and the people who answer adverts are going missing.

The story of the investigation is brilliant, and the backdrop of the book only enhances the story, and adds to the tension.

Lakemore, a town in Washington State was already run down, but it thrives on its college football team and the money brought in by the big games. But that team was wrecked during a previous investigation. Now there is unrest on the streets, and people blame the police for their latest downturn in fortunes, and the loss of their team

Outside of the town the huge wild woodlands, lakes, rivers, mountains, and strange communities, contrast the town and hold many secrets. A stunning and perfect setting for a crime series.

Just as the last book ended with a cliffhanger that had me waiting for this ones publication, Ruhi Choudhary has done it again. Now I’m desperately waiting for book 3

Pages: 381. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

She Said. Three Said. David B. Lyons

There have been a few authors try to take us into the jury room to look at how a jury have come to a verdict. In this book Lyons explores the dynamics of the jury and the influence stronger characters can have.

At the same he gives the reader a unique look at the crime by narrating it in the first person from 4 peoples points of view

The Victim Sabrina, a young, attractive, well dressed woman who was out working when she bumped into the three defendants

The 3 defendants: Jason a soon to be retired international footballer, and his two life long best friends. Li, a nice young man of Korean decent who seems to be the voice of reason. Zachary, the mouthy arrogant one of the three.

Sabrina has accused the three of rape, a charge they all deny.

The jury have heard the evidence and discuss their thoughts on who is telling the truth about the night of the crime, and the validity of the evidence given by the 4

The reader gets to see the night unfiltered from all four of the main characters. What they said, what they did, and how the interpreted what was happening.

And that’s where the unique part comes. By letting each of the characters tell their own story, letting the night of the crime unfold, the reader is left to make their own decision about what happened.

The jury reaches their verdict, and in the very last few lines the reader finds out and and if they, along with the jury, got it right.

A clever book which deals with the jury room as well as any book I’ve ever read.

Pages: 314.

The Grenfell Tower Fire: Benign Neglect and the Road to Avoidable Tragedy

Tony Prosser and Mark Taylor

Everybody is aware of the tragic events of the early hours of July 14th, 2017, and many words have been written, but none as insightful as this book.

The authors, Tony Prosser and Mark Taylor are both retired Senior Officers form the West Midlands Fire Service, England’s second biggest Metropolitan brigade, and have a wealth of experience in fighting fires of all types and sizes. They now run a successful business, Artemis Training and Development, training Fire Officers across England and Wales in all levels of Command and Control before assessing and awarding National Skills for Justice qualifications to successful candidates.

Given their experience it is not surprising that this Forensic examination of the incident is so well evidenced.

The book doesn’t just take a look at the fire. As the title suggests it looks at the timeline of events that should have predicted such a fire would take place. It looks at previous incidents which highlighted the factors which led to the fires in high rise blocks spreading beyond the compartments which were designed to confine them.

By looking at the history of Social Housing, Fire Safety in Domestic Dwellings, Building Regulations and the introduction of the Regulatory Reform Act, the book plots the timeline of the domino effect, which ultimately led to the final domino tumbling on that July night in 2017.

Before looking at the incident the authors look at the training of those who had to fight it. Not the individual personnel on the fireground that night, but the national collective. This incident could have happened in any City in the UK, and so the national requirements of Firefighter recruitment, progression training, professional qualifications, and the roles carried out in the rank structure of the modern Fire Service, are all looked at in a factual and unbiased way.

The book looks at the effect the Baine Report of 2002 had on the structure of the Fire Service in England and Wales and how that has influenced the weight and speed of response to incidents attended by the Fire Service.

To help to understand the way the fire spread, and why so many failings in the structure contributed to the speed and development of it, there is a section devoted to the Construction of high-rise Buildings, and the fire safety measures employed in them. 

Another chapter is devoted to high-rise firefighting, the problems encountered by fire crews and the procedures they should carry out.

This allows the reader to have some insight into what the fire crews expected at a fire in a domestic property within a high-rise building, and how they would approach the incident under what, up till that night, had been usual circumstances.

At the beginning of the chapter that looks at the incident, the authors describe how they have attempted to portray the events by saying,

“We have therefore attempted to consider the fire service’s operations of that night in the context of what was happening in the UK FRS as a whole, and from the perspective of a competent, reasonably well- informed UK Firefighter”

Something they have achieved in a way that all readers will find explains the actions of the Fire Crews in a matter of fact manner, using data and evidence which was supplied to Phase One of the Public Enquiry.

The Public Inquiry did not take into consideration what any reasonably, and well-informed firefighter would have done on that night. Prosser and Taylor have, they have interviewed Fire Officers and discussed the incident, unsurprisingly the majority of experienced Officer spoken to state that they would have made many of the same decisions, especially surrounding the evacuation policies.

The book is a time line. The first chapters of the book look at significant events before the fire in Grenfell Tower, including Fire Service training and procedures. It then looks at the incident. But perhaps the most significant chapters are the final ones entitled Aftermath, Inquires and the Blame Game and finally A Brave New World. 

These chapters look at what happened in the immediate aftermath of the fire. How different agencies and companies reacted to the incident.

They look at Phase One of the Inquiry and the outcome of the recommendations on the Fire Service.

Anybody who understands Fire Safety Legislation, will be aware of the phrase “after the horse has bolted” and its used in the book to show how things changed after some landmark incidents. Will there be a Brave New World? Or will industry and legislation just wait for the next Grenfell.

The final chapter considers the landscape in which public services operate, and what impact any changes could have on the way they prevent and respond to large scale emergencies.

It is not many, if any, “industry” books that I have read from cover-to-cover, but this one I did.

In my opinion this book should be on every fire station in the country. Prosser and Taylor have put together a well-reasoned, unbiased book, which sets out the path to Grenfell.

This is not a book which looks to apportion blame, or dissolve blame by looking for mitigating circumstances. It lays out what happened, why it happened, and why those firefighters that fought the fire acted in the way they did.

For none Fire Service readers it will explain the expectations a firefighter had of how the fire should have developed, and explains the tactics used by the crews on the scene.

There is nobody that cannot learn something from reading this book.

Pages: 390

Publisher: Pavilion Publishing and Media.  www.pavpub.com