Dead Memories. Angela Marsons Pre-Review


Its not often I’m lost for words, but I’ve run out of superlatives to describe this series. Ten books ago Angela Marsons introduced us to a series of characters based in the Black Country. 

The main character is DI Kim Stone. A DI in the Major Investigation Team in Halesowen Police Station in the West Midlands.

Halesowen is a small town on the outskirts of the urban sprawl that makes up the Metropolitan Borough of the West Midlands. Its right on the border of what most people would call the area of greater Birmingham, and the sprawling countryside of Worcester. 

It’s actually in the borough of Dudley, one of the seven boroughs that make up the West Midlands, but more importantly it’s part of the Black Country.

That is what makes it such a special place to set crime stories. 

Dudley has some of the most affluent parts of the West Midlands, close to the country, and some of the poorest parts where it borders Sandwell. It has rich gated communities, run down industrial areas, and some of the poorest social housing estates in the UK. Its population commute into Birmingham City Centre to sit in smart offices and high end retail shops, or work in the manufacturing, scrap meatl, or haulage business. 

The black Country has a hard working history, and this ethic is seen daily in its population; but just like everywhere else there are the freeloaders who never intend to do a day’s work as long as the state will give them benefits.

Then there are the people who pray on both ends of the community. Drug sellers target the rich with designer drugs and well cut class A drugs, and at the same time pray on the vulnerable with less well, and dangerously cut, class A drugs and marijuana. 

Addicts are addicts and once hooked will look to fund their next hit. The desperate will turn to crime.

Prostitution has been forced indoors over the last decade with sex being sold in private flats or thinly veiled massage parlours. This has led to illegal immigrants being forced into the sex trade alongside some desperate local people.

Illegal immigrants are also being used as slaves in retail and manufacturing. 

Street kids are turning to violence.

Post code gangs are frequently a problem, fighting for territory to sell their wares, both human and chemical.

But most of its population are just your average family members trying to get along with their neighbours.

So, as you can see, Angela Marsons has chosen  a great area to set her crimes. Just about anything that could make up a serious crime happens in the area, and so can be portrayed realistically in her books.

The characters she writes about are just as real as her crimes.

Kim Stone is epic. A kid-from-care made good. 

In the first few books her character is established as one of the best cops in British Crime Fiction, her back story is slowly revealed showing how her life has evolved and how she has become the successful detective she has.

Her team also have good back stories. The ever reliant Bryant, her Detective Sergeant is every bit as fundamental to these stories as Lewis is to Morse, or Watson is to Holmes. He acts as her stabiliser and suffers the frustration of seeing Stone struggling through some investigations, but more significantly her personal life.

DC Stacy Wood, the quiet detective that is really good at information trawling and working on a computer, but not so good on face to face encounters. Watching her develop through the series, as she finds her confidence, and becomes a tour-de-force of a cop, is something that would not ever be achieved this well in a single book, or short series.

DC Kev Dawson, young, handsome, cock-sure, but an integral part of the team. His character changes as much as Woods, but in a totally different way.

Then there’s the fringe characters that keep recurring, Keats the pathologist with his love hate relationship with Stone. The Forensic Teams, and Senior Police Officers

Then there’s reporters. One in particular, that has a strange relationship with Stone, to say they use each other when they want something is an understatement. But they both know they need each other and their fraught working relationship is entertaining throughout the series.

Of course, there’s the criminals. A vast array of them over the ten books, all realistically written, all with back stories to help the reader engage with them. Some of them recurring through several stories; and for every criminal there’s a victim who is equally well portrayed, often eliciting as much empathy as sympathy from the reader.

That brings us back to this book. DEAD MEMORIES finds Stone and the team looking at some of their past investigations as a murderer appears to be using Stone’s history to set their crimes. Is it a message to her, or is it the prelude to an attack on her. Is somebody trying to ruin her reputation, her life, or kill her.

I love this series, and as I said at the beginning of this blog I’ve run out of superlatives to describe the books in this series.

Safe to say Silent Scream, book one in the series, was one of the best books I’ve ever read, and each book has just got better and better.

My review of DEADLY MEMORIES will be on-line in February as part of the Blog Tour, but if you haven’t found Angela Marsons yet get yourself on Amazon, or down to the bookshop, and treat yourself to what I think is the best crime series out there.

The Next Victim Helen H. Durrant

DCI Rachel King has a problem, she once had a fling with a man that would turn out to be one of the gangsters that runs Manchester. In fact, the fling is still a bit of a dirty secret as she still harbours feelings for him.

That itself is a problem. An even bigger problem is that his name has come up as a suspect in a murder investigation.

The first body to turn up is that of a gay man who has suffered a horrific death after apparently being tortured.

When King and her team start the investigations they follow the evidence that is left at the scene, but is it reliable or is somebody playing them.

When a second body is found it looks like it is linked to the first by location, but there is a totally different manner of death.

When a third body is found, in similar circumstances as the first, the team begin to think that the second body wasn’t connected after all, but are they right.

This is a complex story weaving numerous plot lines together in a way that the reader is left in no doubt as the difficulties facing the investigation team.

At the same time the reader follows the struggle in Kings personal life. Divorced from her husband, who now lives next door, and bringing up two teenage daughters, she has her dirty secret to consider during the investigation.

Does she tell her team, and her family, about the tryst with the gangster. Where will it leave her professionally, and what will it do to her family life.

I liked this book. The crime plot is original and compelling, but what really makes the story is the issues that surround King and her secret fling.

Pages: 195

Publishers: Joffe

Available now on Amazon

The Thin Edge. Peggy Townsend


Right from the off, I am going to say I loved this book.

I loved the main character, a journalist, Aloa Snow.

I loved the little bunch of old men she hangs out with, Tic, Doc and P-Mac, collectively known as the Brain Farm.

I loved the plot.

Right, so what got me so impressed with this book.

The story is based around the murder of a woman, a woman who lives a good life style with her husband, a paraplegic ex FBI Interrogator. 

A man has been accused, a University Professor who is a poet. A bit of a strange bod which every piece of the investigation points at as being guilty. But he has one person on his side, a man he’d rather not be there at all, his father.

His father just happens to be Tic from the Brain Farm. 

Tic and his friends decide to ask the unofficial forth member of the Farm to help them, Ink, aka Aloa Snow.

She is an investigative journalist and has worked with the Farm before.

This time the investigation takes her around San Francisco, where she is drawn into the world of drug users. This leads her into The Jungle, an area under the freeway where homeless addicts live in a tented village. Not a nice place but a place which has a code of ethics, a code which would usually keeps its occupants safe from the outside word. Usually.

She becomes involved with a strange Christian cult, The Church of the Sacrificial Lamb, a cult which would be unbelievable in most countries, but seems strangely believable in America.

The Police are convinced that Tic’s son is guilty and are busily building a case against him. Aloa is not immediately convinced of his innocence, but because of a feeling of duty to the Brain Farm she starts digging.

The deeper she digs the more convinced she is that the Poetry Professor is innocent. Not a nice man, but innocent.

This book is set in San Francisco during an unusual winter fog. The fog makes the city drab and unfriendly, and best of all, the ideal backdrop for the story.

Aloa is a great character, a bit off-the-wall in her methods, she takes chances and makes leaps of faith that would scare a cop, but she isn’t tied by staying on the right side of any procedures.

I think that’s what I liked about the book. Whilst Aloa does think outside the box, it is done in a way that I would like to think I would do it. Yes she puts herself in danger at times, but it’s never an anticipated danger, it’s just the next logical step, and she’s in trouble before she knows it.

I’m not sure how well known Peggy Townsend is in the UK, I have to admit this is the first book of hers I’ve read, and it’s the second in a series, but it won’t be my last. In fact I’ve just uploaded the first book, See Her Run,to my Kindle and it will be my next read.

If she isn’t that well known yet I have a feeling that once people start on this series she’s going to become one of our must read crime fiction authors.

Pages: 237

Publishers: Thomas Mercer

Publishing Date UK: 14thMay 2019

The Dangerous Kind. Deborah O’Connor

Two stories, one in the present, one a from few years earlier, both on collision course for an explosive finale. 

Jassmine Gooch is a radio journalist working for the BBC. She presents a late night radio show about Potentially Dangerous People. Well she does until she’s sacked for an outburst unbefitting of the BBC. 

Jassmine had been approached several times by a woman who is concerned about a missing friend, a friend she feels is being let down by the police who do not appear to be taking her disappearance seriously.

With time on her hands Jasmine decides to look into the missing woman, Cassie Scolari, and stumbles across a juicy mystery that has her considering a new career.

Meanwhile the story that is taking place years before involves Rowena. A girl who is in the care of social services, but who has fallen for a man that grooms her and pimps her out at parties.

Rowena’s story is tragic, a 13 year old girl passed around like a sex toy, but somehow, she is a survivor. She becomes mature before her time and battles to survive.

Meanwhile in the present day Jasmine has decided to turn her investigation into a podcast with the help of a stuttering intern at the BBC. Jitesh is a great character who uses social media to stalk people. He could turn out to be one of the best characters going if this story is the spark for a series.

Between them Jasmine and Jitesh are moving ever closer to finding out what happened to Cassie in a thoroughly enjoyable and very believable story.

It’s hard to review this book without including spoilers.

Deborah O’Connor has found a great character in Jassmine Gooch. A single lady of a certain age that is struggling with the menopause, struggling after losing her job, and struggling with her relationship to her teenage daughter.

Jitesh, a student who has been given an unconditional offer to join Cambridge University, but decides to take a gap year and work as an IT intern at the BBC, is just as good a character. Bullied at school, and suffering from a stutter, he shows a moral strength that leaves the reader no choice but to feel an empathy with him.

The story is original and takes place over a ten year spell. It incorporates the problems that have been uncovered over the last few years about underprivileged children being groomed by certain elements of the community, and the illicit actions of a celebrity.

The story is very on point, up to date, and spine tingling in its reality. 

I have no idea if Deborah O’Connor has any intensions of writing more books involving Jessamine and Jitesh but I hope she does. 

I will be right at the front of the queue to buy the next instalment.

Pages: 448

Publishers: Zaffre

Publishing date: 16thMay 2019

The Quiet Hours. Michael Scanlon

Introducing a new Police Investigator, Detective Sergeant Finnegan Beck.

Newly demoted and moved from the busiest Police Station in Dublin, Beck finds himself in the small town of Cross Greg.

He is not quite what you would expect, although he’s had a bad time professionally, he still cares, even if he pretends not to.

So, when he turns up at his first crime scene, in his new town, to find a murdered woman lying out in the open with the SIO, Inspector O’Reilly, paying scant attention to procedures it rattles his cage a bit.

That is the first encounter with the old dinosaur of a detective that is O’Reilly, and things don’t get much better as the story unfolds.

He finds an ally in young Garda Claire Sanders who acts as his partner in the investigation and also covers for him when he has an occasional fall off the wagon. He’s not an alcoholic, he’s just not very good at saying no and has a low tolerance for booze.

The murdered girl is an opening into a sordid story of an underage relationship. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The small town has a criminal underworld. After all people in towns and villages have the same needs, and urges, as those in the city.

The thing is, just like every small town, everybody knows everybody else’s business. 

As Beck starts to untangle the web of lies around the investigation he thinks he starts to identify a motive for the crime and is getting closer to the person who killed the girl.

His new colleagues don’t agree with him, and treat him as the Big City Idiot, but slowly they begin to see the merit in his thoughts.

It takes another death before people start to take him seriously but is it too late to stop another killing.

As the story continues we find out why Beck has been demoted and moved away from Dublin. We see him start to build a reputation in Cross Greg, but will he ever be fully accepted.

This is a great story that’s billed as being book one in the Finnegan Beck series. 

Will I be reading book 2. Yes definitely. 

Pages: 327

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 8th February 2019

A Very Special Day Photographed by some Very Special People. THE DIGNUMS

To say my Daughter, Sophie, and her now Husband Jonny, had been preparing their wedding for a long time is a bit of an understatement.

Amongst one of the first things that was arranged, after the venue, was the Photographers. About 3 years ago I became aware that somebody had recommended a family business of Photographers to Soph. Somebody who I will be forever grateful to. Because the day she recommended them Soph looked them up and decided, there and then, that they would be the photographers at her wedding. 

So, a new name entered the Adams vocabulary The Dignums.

It’s fair to say Soph was excited once she’d seen their work, but she was just as keen to see what I thought, as I’ve been known to take a photo or two myself. Well once I’d looked at their work I was just as hooked as she was.

What you can see as soon as you look at the website is that they are real people people. 

It goes without saying that such a successful team can take technically perfect pictures but these guys bring out peoples personality. As good as their formal pictures are, and my God they’re good, it’s the candid shots that made them stand out for me.

I was seeing photos of people that I’d never met, but from the images you could instantly see their personality.

As part of the wedding package, Soph purchased, she had a pre-wedding shoot. This is where The Dignums got to know Soph and Jon, and found their personality, and I suspect started to plan how they were going to photograph the wedding.

Come the big day and, as you would expect, nerves were fraught. My wife, Jan, and her daughter were camped in a room with 4 brides maids, the grooms Mom and Step Mother; along with makeup ladies and hair stylists, and from about eleven o’clock a photographer.

Meanwhile the groom was camped in another room with his Dad, two Best Men and a couple of young nephews who were acting as ushers, and yes they had a photographer in their room as well.

At some time during the day I got introduced to the The Dignums who immediately put me at ease with their gentle manner, and they simply became Phil and Toby. 

It was Phil who spent the morning with Soph, and Toby stayed in Jon’s room for a while whilst the grooms party got ready, and then followed him around whilst he greeted the guests who were gathering at the hotel.

When I walked into Soph’s room to lead her to the ceremony Phil was stood in the perfect position to capture my expression when I saw her in her dress for the first time, and do you know what, I didn’t even know he was there. In fact the girls told me later he had been in the room for hours taking photos and apart from the occasional bit of banter initiated by them, they hardly noticed he was there either.

The wedding was booked to take place outside but the weather in the morning was biblical rain. The hotel were great and had a fall back plan to stage the ceremony indoors, but Soph had her heart set on pictures beeing taken outside, in fact she’d chosen the venue because of the grounds so she could have her photos taken there.

Thankfully the weather cleared and she got her photos, in fact I can remember Phil coming up to me at one point and saying “we’re going to get a great sunset tonight” 

Phil and Toby were in position when the wedding party started to take their seats and when I walked Soph to the ceremony, again I didn’t even notice they were there but the phots they took were stunning.

After the ceremony they took the formal shots. Not many because Soph and Jon had sat down with them and said they didn’t want people hanging around for group shots. Between them they had drawn up a list, of the groups. The list was given to the Best Men, and Phil and Toby found the perfect spot to take the photos. 

Formal shots were done within half an hour and everybody was sat ready for the meal and speeches.

Dan, one of the Best Men did what can only be described as the funniest speech I have ever heard at a wedding. Phil and Toby quickly understood this was going to be a big part of the day and positioned themselves to capture the reactions of the room, one covered the top table and the other floated amongst the guests. The pictures they captured are absolutely brilliant.

So did they go after the speeches?

Of course not. They stayed until about eleven o’clock that night snapping candid photos. Then they did something I’ve never seen before. 

They started getting groups to go outside in the dark where they had set up an area to take some special effects photographs. 

The interaction these guys had throughout the day had been fantastic. In fact more than one person came up to me and asked if they were family, or long-time friends of ours.

No I had only met them that day, and I will be meeting them again because I want them to take some pictures of me and Jan.

A few weeks after the wedding Phil and Toby announced, on their Instagram page, that the wedding package was finished and that a link had been sent to Soph.

It took me and Jan nearly 2 hours to go through the 1100 plus photos that they had put in the final package. Every one of them is a gem. Every one of them is a memory. Every one of them is perfect.

The final presentation pack Jon and Soph received was full of surprise gifts that really shows the care and thought that goes into the work Phil and Toby do.

I think it was the Native Indians of North America that would not let anybody take their photo, as they believed it soul their soul.

We all know they were wrong. But Phil and Toby will find your soul when they photograph you, and they will show that soul with your personality.

Thank You Phil and Toby for the memories, not just the ones in the photos, but the ones from you being there on the day and making it go so perfectly.

If you want to have a look at their work check out their website and social media feeds at

https://thedignums.com

Twitter @TheDignums

Instagram @thedignums

Would I recommend them?

Without hesitation, every day of the week.

The Taken Girls G.D Sanders

I have to say that this book has really torn me.

The story is brilliant, the crime is committed in a way, and for reasons, I have never come across before.

Ten years apart two girls are abducted and held captive by someone for weeks. Then mysteriously they are found apparently unharmed their clothes cleaned and pressed, and saying there captive had treated them well.

When newly promoted DI Edina (Ed) Ogborne is transferred from the Met, under a cloud, to Canterbury she struggles to integrate into the small CID team. 

The most recent disappearance is her first case and as she struggles with the case, she also struggles with her team and her social life.

With the investigation going nowhere it’s a frustration when a local journalist gets a break in the case and publishes the story without conferring with the Police, another “X” in the column for Jo from her new boss.

The investigations continue and at least one other girl is taken, but why, and why return them unharmed and in apparent good health.

Canterbury is a small City and everybody seems to know everybody and there business. The investigation has a small town feeling in a small City.

To me this is where there is a problem with the story. There is never any urgency in the investigation. A series of kidnappings of teenage girls and there’s just a team of 4 looking at it almost on a 9-5 basis. With the SIO taking time out to go for meals and to fraternise with the locals, something she may come to regret

As much as I liked the story there were too many times when I thought “no, that would never happen”, or “stop faffing about and get on with the investigation”

There are some peripheral characters that take the reader down dead ends, and as entertaining as they are, I struggled to understand why some things happen in the story. Unless this is the building block for a series and the characters are going to reappear.

Would I read them if they did?

Yes, as frustrating as it was in places I actually really enjoyed the story.

Pages: 355

Publisher: Avon

Available now.