The House In The Woods. Mark Dawson

The murders in this book made me think of the White House Farm Murders, and the arrest of Jeremy Bamber, and what a great crime to use as a template.

A man stands accused of Killing his parents and twin brother and sister in a remote house in the country.

With only circumstantial evidence the police charge him and get the case to court.

His wife makes a last gasp attempt to help her husband by hiring a local private detective a few days before the case goes to court.

And what a private detective. Atticus Priest is a mixture of all the best bits of two great literature detectives, Sherlock Holmes and Cormoran Strike.

He also has mild Asperger and is prone to say exactly what he thinks.

Priest is employed by the wife to prove her husband’s innocence by discrediting the police investigation. That itself will lead him to cross paths with ex colleagues, and an ex-lover, in beautifully awkward scenes.

I loved this book. Much of it is set around the trial. Atticus is employed late and attends court to help him get his head around the case. He can read peoples body language and studies the defendant, the legal teams and the jury.

He looks at things in ways reminiscent of Holmes and ploughs through the investigation, and life, in the same way Strike does in the Robert Galbraith (I know it’s JKR) series, with bluff, bluster, and with little regard for the rules.

All, of the characters in this book are well written. They all fit perfectly into the plot.

The plot twists and turns and at times I thought I knew who the murderer was, although my opinion on that changed several times. But when the reveal came I was part shocked, and part, how did I not see that coming. Completely plausible and a terrific end to the book, but not the story.

There’s a subplot that runs in the background of the main story, and I was delighted that the last few pages of this book were the first chapter of the next book in the series, and that is now loaded onto my Kindle and ready to read

Publisher: Unputdownable. Pages: 498

The Family Tree. Steph Mullin & Nicole Mabry

A clever concept for a storyline in more than one way.

A woman, Liz, receives an Ancestral DNA testing kit from her cousin, as a present. The results are not what is expected. Not only has she no similarities in DNA markers to who she thought was her family, she finds out her mother was a drug addict who spent time in prison

But that’s not the end of the surprises. When she uploads her data to another site she ticks the box that allows law enforcement agencies access to her test results. What she didn’t expect was to be contacted by two agents from the FBI

Meanwhile the story of a serial killer unravels over alternating chapters, but in a way I’ve never read before.

The killer started their spree 40 years ago with a single victim, and has gone on to kidnap and kill at least 22 other people, in pairs. The story of the killer is told in instalments, with each one progressing their methods. How they are taken, then in the next chapter how they are transported, in following chapters how they are treated in captivity. Each chapter using the next pair of victims.

And yes, there are two being held captive as the story is told.

I’m not giving anything away by saying that the DNA data uploaded by Liz, has similarities to some found at a scene connected to the serial killer, hence the visit by the FBI.

What follows is a story that I rattled through in two sittings. I was enthralled.

Both of the strands would have made a good story on their own, but they have been wonderfully woven together by two authors, and it has produced a great story.

I do wonder about author collaborations, and usually avoid them, but this one tweaked my curiosity.

I wonder if the authors wrote a strand each, and then used the alternative chapter system to weave them together

However they did it, they have combined to write one of the most original crime books I’ve read for a long time.

Pages: 412. Publishers: Avon. Publishing Date 10th June 2021

In Dark Water. Lynne McEwan

I hope this is the start of a long series.

The main character DI Shona Oliver, known as Wee Shona but never to her face, is brilliantly fierce, tenacious, loyal, and has her own ethical compass to steer by.

So when, as a volunteer Lifeboat crew member, she helps recover a body from the Solway Firth, it’s no surprise that she wants to be involved in the investigation of how the young woman ended up in the sea on the border of England and Scotland.

Because the body is landed in England it shouldn’t have anything to do with her team, CID in Dumfriesshire, but they soon get involved in a cross border investigation.

Her boss has promotion ambitions, his wife has political ambitions, and he is leading a high profile, Scotland wide, drugs bust. The last thing he needs is Wee Shona and her small team mucking it, and his potential promotion, up. But is there more to it than just his professional integrity.

Another body.

Shona doing her best dog-with-a-bone act.

The boss getting fractious.

Something has to give

This is a great story to start what promises to be a great series. Shona is a strong character, and she needs to be. Her previous life as a DI in The City of London Police, gives her far more experience than most.

Her childhood in the roughest part of Glasgow, with a drug addict mother, gives her a hard edge.

Her family adjusting to moving from London to the Scottish Borders, and bringing their own secrets with them.

Her small but efficient team, with their own personalities and egos, needs managing.

All of which, along with a seriously impressive crime plot, make this a fantastic book.

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 274. Publishing Date: June 24 2021

Deadly Fallout. Rachel McLean

The last book in this Birmingham Crime series is an absolute stunner.

This whole series has been heading towards the final half a dozen chapters in this one book, and the suspense that builds up throughout this story makes that finale even better.

I only found this series about 6 weeks ago and read the first five just in time to read this one when it was published.

All six books have really good independent stories with DI Zoe Finch as the main character.

But the star of the series is the ongoing investigation into Police corruption, and the link between the corrupt officers and Gang Boss Trevor Hamm

In this story, as Finch prepares to give evidence against a corrupt ex colleague, a burglar makes a grim discovery in an empty house in a one of the posher parts of Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield

When the identity of the body is discovered Finch’s team gets pulled off the investigation

When another body is found, in one of the most deprived areas of Birmingham, Chelmsley Wood, her team are reassigned to that investigation.

Then the dominos start to drop, in lines, towards one central point where the last ones will all crash into each other with a hell of a bang.

Line one, Zoe’s teams investigation into the second murder.

Line two, the court case of the corrupt Officer

Line three, the Professional Standards Departments investigation into just how far the corruption goes.

Line four, the investigation into the death of the man found in the house.

Finally line 5, Zoe Finch’s private life. A single mom of a teenage boy, she lives in a two-up-two-down terrace house in the middle of all the student houses in Shelly Oak. She has a boyfriend she wants to be with, but because of his job in Professional Standards, can’t be, and an alcoholic mother , she doesn’t want to be with, but sometimes can’t avoid.

As the domino lines start hurtling towards the inevitable crash in the centre the book flies by so fast that the 403 pages seems to go in the blink of an eye

The book is brilliant, as are all of the others, but this is one of those series where, to quote Aristotle the “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”

Loved the book, loved the books, loved the series even more.

Pages: 403. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing

A Bad Bad Thing. Elena Forbes

Everything comes at a cost

DI Eve West is on suspension after her DS was killed during a botched raid on a house they should have been nowhere near.

She gets a lifeline from a very unexpected source, but it’s going to cost her. She has to prove a mans innocence, a man who has been in prison for 10 years.

So, an unexpected deal with an unexpected source of information, and that leads to an unlikely partnership.

Journalist Dan Cooper runs Journalists 4 Justice. He is about as close as you can get to gutter press as it comes, or so it seems when Eve first meets him.

The crime they have to investigate together is a murder, the murder of a young woman that worked amongst the horse trainers of Surrey, and what a world that takes us into.

The story is a complex, twisting plot, that ultimately leads to a breathtaking final few chapters.

I have to admit that I think this is the first Elena Forbes book I’ve read, and having looked her up that’s really surprised me. She has a long back catalogue, and every one of them are now on my to-be-read list.

In this book she struck the balance perfectly. The story is gritty enough to be a real page turner, yet it’s so realistic I would not have been surprised to read this in a newspaper, or true crime book.

The characters are perfect for the story, especially Eve. Enough remorse for the loss of her DS, enough arrogance to think she is being treated harshly, and ballsy enough to take an opportunity to work with people she would usually see as sitting on the other side of the fence.

This is the type of book that would have me sitting round the pool ignoring everybody around me on holiday. The type of book that would make long flights fly by, if this was a normal year.

If you are looking for a cracking crime thriller, this is for you, but warn the people around you they are going to be ignored for a couple of days.

Pages: 448. Publisher: Black Thorn. Out Now

Twisted Lies. Angela Marsons

It must be hard coming up with inspirations for new stories in a long running series but Angela Marsons just keeps raising the bar and in Twisted Lies she’s done it again.

I don’t know where she gets the ideas, or what her Google history looks like, but the methods of death in the murders in this book are brilliantly original and gruesome.

At the start Kim Stone has to deal with her worst nightmare. Her not-so-favourite journalist, Tracy Frost, has been granted an all access day with Kim, a day that is going to have quite an impact on Frost in more ways than one

That day is cut short by the discovery of a body, but not before Frost has accompanied Kim on a visit to the family of a domestic murder victim.

And so opens up two strands of what is an absolute cracker of a story that had me hook-line-and-sinker from the first page right up till the last full stop

Frost is off trying to dig up the dirt on the abusive husband of the domestic murder victim. He’s media savvy and he’s trying to paint himself as the innocent man.

Kim and her team have the first of a series of gruesome murders to solve. But nothing in this case is as it seems and the team hit dead end after dead end.

As frustrating as the case is Kim’s team carry on relentlessly as the body count mounts.

The chapters in this book flew by a a breathless pace, and when the end arrived I though I could take a breath, until, the last few lines started with “you have a call” and the rest of the sentence had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.

Now I have to wait till November to find out where that phone call will lead.

Angela Marsons fans will already know the characters in this book. Kim and her team have a great relationship with themselves and the readers.

I was trying to work out why this series sticks out, why it has remained my favourite series when there are so many good one out there.

The crimes, and the crime stories, are always stunningly well written, well described, well placed, and realistic.

The recurring characters of Kim and her team, as well as the recurring occasional characters, such as Tracy Frost are so well written I’m half expecting to bump into them on the streets of the Black Country, where I live.

But the fact that the characters that only appear for a couple of pages are just as well written, and described, as all of the main characters really lifts these books

This is not just a Police Procedural series, or a series of Psychological Thrillers, although it is both. This is destined to be one of the Classical Crime Series, the Classical Crime Series of our generation.

Angela Marsons and Kim Stone are what Colin Dexter and Morse were to the 1980’s and 90’s and Sue Grafton was to the 2000’s with her Alphabet books

Keep them coming Angela.

Pages: 414. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

20/20. Carl Goodman

DI Eva Harris is one hell of a character. 27 years old, a cybercrime specialist who is on rotation to get experience, but she already has a great back story.

Eva is special, in many ways, and if you can get past the fact she is a DI at such a young age you will love this book. Especially if you are a fan of the TV series Line of Duty.

There are multiple strands to this story. One of them is the fact that it’s not a coincidence that Eva is doing a rotation through the Surrey serious crime team. She’s been laced there to find a leak, a bent cop who is feeding organised crime syndicates information on ongoing investigations.

But that is one of the smaller storylines, the main one is the hunt for a murderer.

In the depths of Surrey there is a gated estate where the rich shy away from the public. The estate is the realm of successful business people, footballers, and increasingly rich foreigners.

When the first murder happens on the estate Eva is sent to investigate. A woman tied naked to a chair, her blood drained, her eyes removed with surgical skill.

Evas investigation will lead her to some strange places that may are the domain of the rich and bored. She encounters some tremendous characters.

Along the way the different strands of the story occasionally cross, but never confuse. There is a constant pace that makes the book hard to put down, and then there are the last few chapters.

No spoilers but they are brilliant.

I have to say that Carl Goodman has created one of the best new characters I’ve read for a long time. With her young age, and her tenacity, I can only hope that this is the first in a long series.

At the moment it looks like this book is initially only going to be available as an ebook and audio book, published on the 16th June. I really hope it gets a print run. If it doesn’t, and you haven’t got an ebook reader, it would be worth buying one just to read 20/20

Publisher: Hera. Publishing Date: 16th June 2021

Widow’s Island. L.A. Larkin

Another new author for me, and another addition to my notifications on Amazon.

I have read a lot of good books this year, and this one is right up there with the best.

A middle aged University Professor, who has been recently widowed, relocates herself and her teenage daughter to a small island in Washington State.

For the first few months everything is going ok, but Professor Stephanie Miller is about to present a controversial document to a senate committee, and not everybody is happy about it.

A troll farm ( yes thee is such a thing, I had a pleasant hour reading about them online ) starts to run a campaign to discredit her.

As the misinformation turns to rumours the small island community starts to look at Stephanie and her daughter differently.

Meanwhile the island holds a secret. A murderer has been killing people in a very specific way for years, but his crimes are few and far between, and somebody different always seems to be in the frame for them, even if it’s never quite proved.

When Stephanie and her daughter start to get direct threats it’s not clear whether it’s the result of the trolling, or are they being targeted by a killer.

His is an intriguing story. It has elements that had me reaching for search engines on my computer, Puget Sound, in Washington State, with its collection of islands linked to the mainland by small ferries, is a great place to set psychological thriller.

The toll farms, I’d heard of them but didn’t realise just how much impact they have had over the last few years, a brilliant addition for any thriller where a persons head needs playing with.

Larkin has interwoven two compelling threads that had me second guessing myself all the way to the end of the book.

How much did I enjoy the book. As soon as I finished it I went onto Amazon and looked to see what else the author has written, my wallet was grateful there was only one other book to download, and it is now my current reading.

Pages: 396. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing date: 3rd June 2021

Dead Secret Noelle Holton

Dead Secret was published yesterday, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to tell everybody how good it is. Now its my turn on the reviewers blog tour, I can do just that

First of all this is book 4 in a series but it can be read as a standalone without losing any of its impact.

What makes this book so good?

The characters, the storylines, everything, are so well written. They are written by a person who has working experience with the people she writes about. That makes things very, very real

She also gets the incestuous nature of crimes, about how when major crimes happen, there is only a small group involved.

There is nobody better at writing about domestic abuse and the way it affects people, the way that if it’s not addressed things can spiral, yet the victim is often the one witness who doesn’t want to come forward.

In this story there’s a murder, a kidnap, and a domestic abuse crime, all, happening at the same time, and apparently unrelated. But are they?

The three crimes are all investigated in their own way, the paths of the investigation cross at times but isn’t it just coincidence?

The main character DC Maggie Jamieson is still mentally and physically exhausted from the last case. Her guard is down and a journalist, she actually fancies, is trying to worm her way into her affections.

But the journalist is also getting information from a source within the team, not Maggie, but everybody wants to know who, and suspicion is flying.

One of the crimes leads the team to a horrific, unbelievable, conclusion.

I started the book on Saturday night and would have read it in one sitting had I started it early enough in the day. As it was I didn’t put it down till silly o’clock in the morning, and picked it up with my first cup of coffee Sunday and sat till I’d finished it. 

I mentioned that this is the fourth book in the series. I’ve already reviewed the first 3.

#1 Dead Inside. #2 Dead Wrong. #3 Dead Perfect.

They were all good, but this one, for me, is the best so far.

I said something in a tweet when I first read this book, and I stand by what I said.

This book is destined for the top of the best seller lists

Bonds of Blood. Rob Sinclair

DI Dani Carter book #4, and they just keep getting better

Two people, a husband and wife, the husband is dreaming about another woman, when he wakes he is being viciously attacked, his dead wife lying next to him. Quickly they’re both dead.

The start of an investigation for Carter and her team, and what a route it’s going to take them on.

The dead man Terry Eccles is a property developer. Him, and his partners are hugely successful and on the surface all seem perfect.

But as the investigation begins the team start to find out what the family dynamics are really like.

Dani is also involved in the investigation of a second case. A slam dunk murder following a fatal RTC.

With this distracting her will she manage to stay focused on the murder of the Eccles family .

Then, of course, their’s her personal life. Things couldn’t really be more stressful

Rob Sinclair is a skilful writer who has chosen Birmingham to set this crime series. Clever, every book is set in just the right district. In this case the story revolves around the more wealthy areas of Sutton Coldfield and Little Aston.

Is not just the setting that’s right, the characters are spot on for the story. The almost incestuous relationship between the business partners and their families. The privileged offspring of successful businesses men, and it’s all so believable.

A great addition to a great series

Publisher: Canelo. Pages: 296. Publication date: 20 May 2021