Dead Mercy. Noelle Holten

Right at the back of this book is an insight into why this story, and the series, is so good.

A modest Eleven lines under the title About the Author.

In those lines it relates Noelle Holten’s qualifications and experience.

A Senior Probation Officer for 18 years covering Domestic Violence and Abuse cases.

3 BA (Hons) degrees, Philosophy, Sociology (Crime and Deviance) and Community Justice, and to top it of a Masters in Criminology.

So Noelle is one of those rare breeds, a person that has experience to back her qualifications, and that really stands out and puts her way ahead of many authors.

The story sees DC Maggie Jamieson and the Staffordshire Police Major Organised Crime welcoming back Dr Kate Maloney to the team, and her Psychologist insights are going to be priceless.

When Maggie is called to the first murder scene she finds the victim has been bound, assaulted, and set alight.

Why would anybody do that to a person, is the fire part of the killers method of killing or is it an attempt to destroy evidence.

When a second body turns up under similar circumstances the phrase serial killer gets banded about but Maggie is quick to point out that you need three deaths before you can use that category. She spoke too soon.

As the body count mounts the team work their way through the investigation, building working hypothesis as they go. As in a real investigation suspects come to the fore, and hypothesis are built around the reasons for the killing; and as in a real investigation it takes time to get it right.

Although the reader gains an insight into the killers motives, through the occasional chapter written from their point of view, the Police are frustratingly chipping away at the edges without quite nailing it, until they inevitably put the pieces together, but how many people are going to die first.

They say never judge a book by its cover, and I would usually agree, but this book has a stunning cover and the story is every bit as good.

I mentioned Noelle’s qualifications and experience. She’s walked the walk, she has all of the t-shirts, and now she’s writing books about the things she knows.

If you want your crime fiction realistic, if you want the crimes, criminals, victims, and Police Officers to be truly reflective of the real thing, this book, and this series are what you are looking for.

Pages: 400. Publisher: One More Chapter, Harper Collins

Angel Maker. Morgan Greene

So. Is this the start of a new series or not.

Who cares it’s absolutely brilliant, and is one of my must reads of 2021.

I read this book in 2 days, and would have read it in one sitting if I had the time.

Why do I ask if it’s the start of a new series, because there are several places where it fleetingly mentions big cases the main character, DI Jamie Johansson, has worked on in the Met.

The question is answered by the author at the end of the book. He thanks the reader for reading the book and explains that there have been previous books about Jamie’s cases in London, but that he has always wanted to write Scandium Noir, and that this is the real start of The Jamie Johansson series

It works, it really works, and for me, yes it is the start of a new series and I’ve just downloaded the next, Rising Tide, on to my Kindle. Will I read the previous books? Yes but I’m in no rush. I’ll read them as a prequel at some time.

The story

Jamie Johansson is a British Police Officer who moved to the U.K. with her mother following a messy Divorce from her Swedish Detective father.

Her father committed suicide not long after capturing and incarcerating the Angel Maker, a man who had raped and killed teenage girls before posing them as a praying Angel with tree boughs carved and pushed through the bodies.

The Angel Maker has just died in prison and now a new body has been found, a fresh kill, carried out and posed in exactly the same way as the other seven.

Swedish Police Detective Andres Wiik has requested Jamie’s attendance as he believes that she may know something about the original cases that was lost when her father died. She had been the little girl often seen around the police station with her dad. The apple of his eye he took on hunting and fishing trips. She may have been told something about those original investigations, and she is a cop with a huge reputation for solving cases.

When she arrives she’s taken to the scene, surprisingly still well preserved because of the cold weather.

From there she’s taken to a house, and this might be why she’s really there. It’s her fathers old house, the one she thought her mother had sold, but it’s actually hers and hasn’t been touched since her fathers death. It’s a time capsule that takes her back to the good, and not so good, days with her father.

His old note books hold a wealth of information but not much about the Angel Maker case.

The story of the investigation into the current crime obviously throws doubt on the original conviction based on her dads investigations, but that is the least of her worries.

This is a cracker of a story, one of, if not the best, I’ve read this year

There are twist and turns in the plot which had me thinking I had the crime solved, then I hadn’t. I knew who the murderer was, I didn’t. How the book was going to end, I really didn’t.

The end of this book is a real hook, and I swallowed it.

I didn’t see the last chapter coming, and it made what was already a great read, into the opening of what I think is going to be a great series.

I don’t do star markings, but if I did, this would be one more than the top mark six out of five. No hesitation.

Pages: 444. Publisher: Mercury Books. Available now

Under A Dark Cloud. Louisa Scarr

A closed room murder with a twist.

The room is a van, on top of a multi-storey car park, in Reading, in the middle of a storm.

TV personality, and Storm Chaser, Dr Simon Sharp lies multilateral in the van full of high-spec tech. With him, alive and unharmed is Dr Finn Mason. The van is locked from the inside and Finn is refusing to come out unless his best friend is called.

His best friend just happens to be DS Robin Butler of Hampshire Police.

Butler arrives and Finn is taken from the van. But what has happened inside. The local police think they have a nailed-on case of murder with Finn as the only logical suspect.

Butler admits that is the case, but still thinks it’s out of character for his friend, until he starts to dig, and then he realises Finn is not the person he thought he knew so well.

Meanwhile Butler’s side kick DC, Freya West is tasked to help new Acting DS Josh Smith with the investigation into the death of a homeless man found in an abandoned freezer the morning after the storm.

Whilst concentrating on her own case she worries about Butler and soon finds herself helping him try to work out why Finn might have changed so much, and why he might have killed a fellow scientist in such a grisly manner.

This is the second book in the DS Butler series, and just like the first, it’s original and intriguing.

The storyline had me coming up for the occasional breath between chapters. It’s simple, yet complex.

The frustrations Butler feels when he realises he doesn’t know his friend as well as he thought he did, and in some way has let him down, is really well written into the plot.

The relationships between Butler and Finns family is stretched. The building friendship with his DC, Freya, is addictive.

The story as a whole had me not must hooked, but left me wanting more. Always a good sign.

Pages: 297. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Published on: 9th September 2021

You Can Run. Karen Cleveland

The one genre of book that I keep coming back to is the spy espionage stories.

Over the last few years good ones have become fewer are further between, in fact with the exception of people like Nelson Demille, and David Baldacci, since the demise of Tom Clancy’s original self written books, I have really struggled to find a good author in the genre.

Well that’s changed. Karen Cleveland has written a cracking thriller, which hopefully is the start of a great new series.

You can run is written in the first person from two peoples points of view.

Jill is a CIA analyst who helps to verify foreign agents credibility. The safety of her family is threatened unless she verifies a new Syrian assets, code name Falcon.

She does, but then she runs. Resigning from the Agency and creating a new identity she lives a peaceful life for 4 years.

Alex is a journalist and she receives an anonymous tip telling her that the CIA are receiving a lot of information from a Syrian asset that doesn’t exist.

Determined to publish the story she doesn’t realise she’s about to open a can of worms that will plunge Jill back into danger.

Jill responds the only way she can. She has to get to the bottom of the very issue she ran away from 4 years earlier.

From page one this story is sprinting at a great pace. That pace doesn’t let up till the penultimate chapter, then just when you think you can get your breath back, there is that final chapter.

What a hook.

Loved it

Pages: 336. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Published on: 31st August 2021

When The Guilty Cry. M.J Lee

Right up to date. Set against the political fallout of Greater Manchester Police being placed into Special Measures, a lack of Officers as we come out of the latest lock-down, and pressure on Officers, from those above, to perform beyond their time stretched capabilities, this is a cracking portrayal of today’s policing.

Ridpath is back, and he’s still working for the Coroner, but with MIT pushed to breaking point, and most of the team crunching numbers, it’s inevitable that he’s going to get drawn back to work for the Police.

When 3 severed hands are found in a backpack, in an abandoned Children’s Home Ridpath originally attends as the Coroners Officer. GMP see this as a no win situation, a cold case which appears to be unsolvable. Passing it off to Ridpath seems the ideal opportunity to get the investigation off their books.

At the same time a mother and father have applied for a Declaration of Death certificate for their daughter who has has been missing since 2009.

Last seen heading off to a Music Festival, the then 16 year old girl hasn’t been seen since. Her mother is close to death and wants closure before she dies.

The Coroner is sympathetic and decides to hold the inquest in an impossibly short time frame and tells Ridpath to investigate the circumstances of the disappearance within a week.

That is the starting point for a fast paced story that had me captivated from page one. And if you’ve ever read any of MJ Lee’s books you’ll know that you have to read to the very last sentence, this one is no exception.

The home where the back-pack was found is associated with child abuse, and the name Jimmy Saville just adds to the spin chilling presumptions of what happened their.

The hands provide a series of complex forensic issues, how old are they, can any fingerprints or DNA be recovered, whose are they? And where are the rest of the bodies they belong to.

MIT’s Senior Officer wants this case off her books, and she gives Ridpath the same time frame constraints as the Coroner, She wants it wrapped up or moved on in a week. Impossible!

I love this series. I recently read a post, on one of the book readers forums, that they were fed up with Detectives private lives intruding into Crime Novels.

I couldn’t disagree more, and Lee’s Ridpath is a prefect example of why.

Struggling to balance his work and being a single Dad, taking life advice from his young daughter, when he should be guiding her through life, and still grieving his wife’s death, he just carries on. Because that’s what people do. But the pages devoted to the relationship between him and his daughter are brilliant, and just add so much to an already great story.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. A great addition to one of the best Police Crime Series on the shelves today

Publisher: Canelo Crime Pages: 368. Publishing date 21st September 2021

The Cliff Top Murders. Rachel McLean

The speed that Rachel McLean turns books out would usually be a red flag to me, but in this case I would be very wrong. Her books are not only good, they’re addictive, and as far as I’m concerned, the quicker she publishes them the better.

Her first series, set in Birmingham was brilliant. This, her second series is a spin off from that, and is just as good, if not better.

DCI Lesley Clarke is on a sabbatical from the West Midlands Police after sustaining an injury during a bomb attack in Birmingham. She has been seconded to a Dorset Police for a quite rehabilitation. The problem is there are murders that need solving even on the idyllic prehistoric coastline.

When the body of a young Lawyer is found at the foot of a cliff it’s not immediate clear if it’s the result of an accident, suicide, or murder. It soon becomes apparent it’s murder.

Still struggling to form relationships with all of her team Clarke is frustrated by their insular approach and the snails pace the local pathologist works at. But one relationship she has formed outside of work is going to become a problem on this case.

When a second body is found at the base of another cliff it throws up more questions. One of which is posed by one of her new colleagues, and it relates to the death of her predecessor.

In the Birmingham series one of Clarke’s DI’s uncovered police corruption on an epic scale, is it about to happen all over again in sleepy, but affluent Dorset.

Midsomer Murders meets Line of Duty but one hell of a lot better.

Please don’t read this as a standalone. Look through Amazon and pick up the first book in the series. The Corfe Castle Murders you will love it and get so much more from this one if you do.

If you want to spend a bit more money, and invest a bit more time, look for McLeans Birmingham Series starting with Deadly Wishes, it’s a cracking set of 6 books set in Birmingham and will give you a gateway into these Dorset books.

Pages: 342. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing. Available now

The Creak On The Stairs:

A split time book with a murder investigation set in 2017. The seeds for the murder start in 1989, and as the past races towards the current the devastating life of a young girl reveals reasons for the murder, but the end still came as a surprise

I love books set in Iceland, a whole country that can give a story a small town, cosy-crime, feel.

Detective Elma returns to her home town after serving as an officer in Reykjavik. It should be a move to a quiet tranquil area but her first job is to investigate the murder of a woman found on the rocks below the lighthouse

As with all small towns everybody seems to know everybody, but nobody seems to know what goes on behind closed doors.

The victim is a woman that works for an airline and should be on a flight to Canada, or that’s what her husband thought. So why has she been found on the rocks, outside a town she swore she’d never return to, a town she hates.

As the investigation gets underway a second story is told from a young girls point of view, a story of innocence stolen, a story of the building of a monster, but why did nobody intervene.

This is not a complex book. It two main characters, Elma the returning detective, and Elisabet, the little girl growing up in 1989, the body on the rocks.

The mystery lies in the past, the way Elisabet transforms through her childhood, the sufferings that turn her into what she becomes.

Can Elma connect the dots. It’s not easy as much of the information she needs is from Elisabet childhood, from teachers and other school children.

By knitting together peoples half memories, false memories, and imposed memories she may be able to get to the bottom of the current day murder.

Pages: 315. Publisher: Orenda Books Available now

The Body On The Moor. Nick Louth

Usual lead character DCI Craig Gillard takes a bit of a back seat in this book.

That’s because the story revolves more around the people that are involved in a crime from the civilian side.

A local head master is found beheaded in his car.

Who would target a man that is held in fairly high regard by most, but then we find out about the real man, and it seems there could be a few people who would be happy to see him dead.

Then there’s a Barrister who is really down on her luck, financially she is skint, her personal and professional life is stuck in a rut.

When she finds a young runaway living in her garden she finds that strangely the girl knows way too much about her life.

Dizzy, the runaway, has a terrible history, running away from home at 13, abused, by her “boyfriend” who got her addicted to drugs and then forced her into prostitution, working for one of the worst gang bosses in the country, she has escaped and is on the run in fear of her life.

So why chose Barrister Julia McGann’s garden to sleep in, and how does she know so much about her.

Gillard’s team are investigating the death of the headless headmaster, now that would have been a great title for a book. The more they dig into his life the more sleazy it looks.

The various affairs, the reluctant cuckold wife, the aggrieved students, the list of potential suspects seems endless, but the one woman they think most likely is proving impossible to identify.

This is one of those stories that had to be written from outside of the police prospective. It had to be written with Julia McGann as the main character. It is better for showing issues the police could not know about.

It’s a book about choices and the way one choice becomes the first strand of a spiders web, which when complete is a really complex structure.

That’s what this story is, a complex spiders web, and it’s brilliant.

Pages: 352 Publisher: Canelo. Available now

The Crying House B.R Spangler

The book starts 30 years ago with a young boy being abused by his mother, but is this the making of a monster?

The abuse is carried out in a specific way, a way I haven’t heard of before, and that’s not the only first in this book.

The setting for the place the first bodies are found when the story moves to the current day, is the second. Some houses which have been abandoned are being used by local youths to party. The houses are suffering from rising sea levels and costal erosion and could collapse at any time.

The first body appears to be a consequence of careless partying, or is it?

The second body, found in the upper floors has had its blood drained and is mummified in salt, and that is the link back to the abused boy thirty years previously.

Casey White is still convalescing but is keen to lead the investigation into both deaths.

As she looks at old crimes she realises that a similar murder had happened years ago, but that the man who committed it is still in prison. He’s old, he’s frail, he’s incarcerated, he can’t be responsible can he?

Another body, a note held in its hand.

Casey’s daughter s still missing, she still sees her, she still worries about her, the note sends her into paranoia, will her daughter be next.

Spangler writes as if he’s writing for me. He ticks all my boxes, original crimes, a great setting, a main character I can engage with, peripheral characters that hold my interest, and ongoing stories that run through the series, each book its own cracking story.

This is Book 4 in the Detective Casey White series, yes it can be read as a standalone, but it’s much better read in order.

Pages: 281. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

Next of Kin Kia Abdullah

This is the third book I’ve read by Kia Abdullah and I think I might have to admit to a bit of an obsession.

Her books come from a completely different perspective to everybody else’s

She looks at multiple layers, giving characters equal weight, each developing their own prospective on what is happening through the story.

In this book two sisters Leila and Yasmin are close, both geographically and emotionally.

Leila is a successful Architect, a busy woman, who has had trouble starting a family and is living apart from her partner.

Yasmin is a happy family woman with a 3 year old son.

That is until one day Yasmins husband asks Laila to drop the boy off at day care because he’s had an urgent phone call from work.

The problem is, on the way to day care, Leila also gets an urgent phone call, and with the little boy asleep in a car seat behind her, she forgets he’s there, parks the car, and runs into the office.

It’s the hottest day of the year.

When Yasmin’s husband gets a welfare phone call asking why his son hasn’t been dropped off at day care he phones Laila immediately. Then she remembers the little boy is still in the car.

What follows is a compulsive story that looks at the family dynamics between the two sisters and their partners.

It looks at the blame, and guilt, it explores peoples hidden feelings, emotions, empathies, and guilts, or lack of.

Add into the mix a tenacious Detective Sergeant who just keeps digging and chipping away at everybody’s story and you have one hell of a book.

Is this a tragic accident caused by a busy lifestyle, or is it something more sinister.

Should somebody be officially blamed, and charged with the boys death.

Does anybody blame themselves, or more to the fact is there anybody who doesn’t.

The best thing about Kia Abdullah’s writing is the way it plays with your mind. This book like the previous two I’ve read had me changing allegiances time and time again.

The one thing that is also certain about her books is it ain’t over, till it’s over.

Pages: 384. Publisher: HQ Release Date: 2nd September 2021

Previous reviews of Kia Abdullah Books

Child’s play. https://nigeladamsbookworm.com/2019/08/19/childs-play-kia-abdullah/

Take it Back. https://nigeladamsbookworm.com/2019/07/07/take-it-back-kia-abdullah/