Rich Blood. Robert Bailey

A great book for readers who like authors like John Grisham and Greg Iles, and American legal thrillers.

An ambulance chasing, personal injury lawyer, Jason Rich, has just been released from 90 days in rehab. He has turned to booze once to often and rehab was one of the conditions of him being allowed to carry on practicing.

But his troubles are nothing compared to his sister. They don’t get on, since childhood they have had a tumultuous relationship which has worsened since the death of their father.

So when he finds out she is desperate for his help he’s unsure what he will do.

Why does she need help? She’s being held in prison after being arrested for the murder of her husband.

Jana, the sister, is not easy to warm to. She’s an alcoholic, who also uses hard drugs. She’s had more than one affair and it’s alleged she withdrew $15000 dollars from her, and her husbands, joint account to pay a man to kill him.

She’s in debt to the local drug Lord and is paying him off in “favours” in lieu of the interest in the $50000 she owes him.

So as well as being in prison accused of murder, she is under threat from the drug Lord not to implement him, or trade information on him, for a lower sentence. With her in prison it’s her two young daughters that will pay if she goes against him.

So how will the alcohol dependent brother, who has never tried anything other than compensation cases, defend the alcoholic drug taking sister with no morals, against a murder charge.

This book was a bit of a bolt from the blue. I love this type of story, and I thought I was on top of the current authors writing this genre. How wrong was I. As soon as I finished this I downloaded Robert Baileys back catalogue.

U.K. Publisher Thomas & Mercer. Pages 379. Available now

Mystic Wind. James Barretto

This book reminds me of the early John Grisham books. A defence attorney battling the odds to save a man from a guilty verdict which will lead to the death penalty.

Jack Marino was a star prosecution attorney, but following an attack on him in his own home he is forced to stand down. He is going through the motions as a corporate lawyer for his father-in-laws huge firm when a request comes out of the blue.

He is asked to defend a man who is charged with murder. What he doesn’t know is that he has been hand picked by his former boss, set up to fail.

Why, because the District Attorney is running in the local election and wants a landmark case under his departments belt to help him get the votes he needs.

What they didn’t take into consideration was that Jack was back on his game. There is no way he is going to let the prosecution railroad his client into the death penalty.

The case agains the man Jack is defending is flimsy. It relies on the testimony of a man who has been granted immunity in the case, a man that Jack thinks is the actual killer.

Blocked at every turn Jack fights the prosecution team, and a Judge who likes to railroad his court along his own lines.

This is a brilliant book. John Grisham was one of my favourite authors for years but I’ve found his recent books have been a bit of a disappointment. James Barretto has filled the hole that Grisham left.

The book holds no punches and grips from the start. Jack Marino is a great character that is easy to engage with. His frustrations in the court, and with the investigation translate to a great story.

Just like Grisham you are not guaranteed a happy ending. That is what makes this book so good. The reader has no idea how it’s going to end. Who is going to come out on top. Right up to the last page there are surprises.

The book is advertised as Book 1 in the Jack Marino series, which gives me a great anticipation of what is to come. Bring on book 2

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing. Pages: 401.

Audio Book running time: 9 hours 10 minutes. Narrator: Dylan Walker

Hidden Bones. Rita Herron

There is something about this series that has me really hooked.

It could be the main character, Detective Ellie Reeves, or the other recurring characters, all of who add massively to the stories.

It could be the setting, a small town at the start of the Appalachian Trail, with its unique inhabitants and visitors.

Or it could be the well thought out, well written crimes.

It’s probably a combination of all of those things.

This book starts like a Stephen King story. A flash back to 30 years ago, a little girl hiding whilst she witnesses her mother being murdered. The killer finding her and taking her away.

Back to today and it’s Spring Break and all the madness it brings. A group of teenagers carrying out a TikTok challenge to film themselves in an abandoned “haunted” house.

The house is an old Orphanage with a bad reputation. When something spooks them they make a run for it but one girl falls into a pit. The pit is full of human bones, but how long have they been there.

Unsure weather this is a historic case, or even if it’s a crime scene Ellie is moved off the case when a very recent murder victim is found.

A woman has been the victim of a horrific murder, and she has had rough sex recently. In another twist the team dig into her past and can’t be sure the rough sex and the murder are part of the same crime.

The story follows the investigations into both crimes, and more as they happen. Inevitably the investigators start to wonder if there’s a link.

If there is, how long has this killer been active, and how many victims are there.

Rita Herron is one of those authors I wait for. I’m lucky enough to be able to read the books before they are published. When the notification pops up to say one of her books is available it goes straight to the top of my TBR list and is always the next book to be read.

I think that speaks volumes.

Print length 460 pages. Audio book 8 hours 58 minutes Narrator Tanya Eby. Publisher Bookouture. Available now.

Stay Awake. Megan Goldin

It might sound a familiar plot, woman wakes with no memory and is in the middle of a murder mystery, but it is much better than anything along similar lines that I have ever read.

To start the amnesia is not the common forgot everything type.

32 year old Liv Reece wakes up tipsy in the back of a taxi. When she gets home she finds it occupied by strangers. Catching herself in a mirror she realises she has long hair several shades darker than the short hair she thought she had.

On the back of her hand, her wrist, and up her arm are scribbles in pen.

Stay Awake, Remember to wake up, Don’t sleep, I forget everything when I sleep.

There’s also the address on a nightclub. People know her there but she doesn’t remember them.

As she starts to put things together she realises the last thing she remembered, taking a phone call at her work desk, was actually over 2 years ago.

Waking up on a park bench the next day her memory is gone again, all she remembers is everything that happened in her life up till the phone call at her desk.

A murder takes place and New York Detectives Halliday and Leville are assigned. A man with a stab to the heart and slashed feet lies naked on a bed. The words Wake Up! Written in blood on the inside of the window, backwards so the can be read correctly from the outside.

Liv sees this on the news and realises she must have had something to do with it. But why.

The story is brilliant, Liv’s fear and frustration as she tries to piece together her life, and work out if she killed somebody.

Halliday and Leville investigating a stranger murder with a suspect who appears to have fallen off the grid over two years ago.

The plot twists around will the Police Investigators find Liv, whilst Liv is going through psychological torture, and trying to stay any awake is only increasing her pain.

As both parties creep closer to the truth, and each other, it become a breathtaking ride of a story that you found myself deeply engaged by.

A great book by a new author to me.

Print Length: 353 pages. Publisher: Canelo. Publishing date U.K. 18th August 2022.

Playing With Fire. Mary Burton (Novella)

Where do I start with this review.

I loved the book, it kept me hooked, but a big part of me was irritated.

I’m a retired Fire Officer, in fact I was, and still am Fire Investigator, and for that reason I was able to spot the technical inaccuracies in this book.

That would usually put me off but the story just kept me hooked.

The two main characters, Darcy the journalist, and Gannon, the Fire Investigator who had retired following the “death” of his nemesis Nero in a fire in the big City.

Gannon was never convinced the body that had been found was the man who had started the fires, and killed the people. He was too intelligent and too neat to have been killed by one of his own fires.

Gannon quit his job after that fire and retired to a quiet town to run a motorcycle repair shop.

A year after Nero’s reported death Darcy receives a tip off that he wasn’t the body found in the fire, and that an innocent man has been framed for his crimes.

She’s got enough evidence to convince her editor to have a second look, but she is going to need to talk to Gannon, a man who is notorious for his hatred of the press.

Coincidentally Gannon has moved to Darcy’s home town and she goes to work in the family bar as she goes undercover in an attempt to get close to him.

Meanwhile the town has started to suffer a series of fires which are reminiscent of Neros. Is it him, or is there a copy cat. Either way they’re goading Gannon.

What follows the story of Darcy and Gannon learning to like each other and investigate the fires that are taking place now. But Darcy keeps getting a crisis of confidence. The one man who fits all the tags to be Nero is Gannon.

Is she thinking straight, in fact is she thinking with the right part of her anatomy when it comes to him.

Honestly the story is so good it outweighs the inaccuracies.

Print length 205 pages. Publisher: HQ Digital. Available now.

Hot House. Lisa Towles

For some reason this book reminded me of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series.

The location, the settings and although the main character is a civilian woman, and the writing style all got me thinking of Connelly and Bosch.

Mari Ellwyn, ex CIA, now part time Private Investigator, and Art Gallery owner is the main character

She has been employed to look at who is blackmailing a family friend, a Judge on Americas 9th Circuit.

Meanwhile ex cop and Private Investigator, Derek Abernathy, is looking into the disappearance two journalist, one of who has turned up dead.

Inevitably the two cross paths as they discover the death of a foreign student links both their cases.

By forcing the Police Officer investigating the students death to help them, and whilst dodging old colleagues from the CIA Ellwyn and Abernathy investigate the links and follow the ever increasing amount of leads, trying to sort the truth from the deliberately scattered red herrings.

But by who, and why, are they being stone walled and misdirected.

A short but cracking read, ideal for crime fiction lovers who want a book to stick in the pool bag or flight bag for this years summer holiday.

Pages: 286. Audio length: 6.43. Publisher: Indies United Publishing House. Available from 6th May 2022

The Lighthouse Girls. B.R Spangler

Detective Casey White is called when the body of a girl is found close to a lighthouse on the outer banks.

A family report their daughter missing from a nearby town.

When Casey goes to give the unfortunate family the bad news she’s in for a shock. It is their daughter thats dead, but it’s not the one they reported missing.

And that opens the door to one of the most original plots I’ve read for quite a while.

I read a lot of crime fiction so it’s not often I come across a story that lets me sit back and think, “I’ve not come across that before”

Casey and her team are brilliant. The ongoing stories and recurring characters that sit of the peripheries are great, but what really steals the show in these books is the setting.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is fascinating. I’ve spent hours on Google Earth looking at the area.

One of the pleasures in reading is that the book can take you to places you’ve never heard of. Now I’ve found one I really want to visit.

A massive area of linked islands forming a false coast on the Atlantic Coast of America. Some island inhabited, some deserted, some overgrown wildernesses. Small towns, on the mainland side of the lagoon that’s formed by the islands, with the usual mix of rich, poor and eccentric characters.

For U.K. readers this is a bit like Midsummer, on the coast, and on steroids.

White is a brilliant character, she’s made enemies, and friends. The small town attitude means that whenever anything goes wrong the newcomer gets the blame. But things have got as bad as they’re going to get and the town is now on the rebound. It’s making its way back.

Will Casey get the credit and recognition she deserves, I doubt it.

Will she solve the riddle that is the two sisters, one dead, the other missing.

The key to it is embedded in the small town community, this small town just happens to be fragmented over a few islands and inlets.

A great story, a great series. I can’t wait till we find out what happens next on the Outer Banks.

Publisher: Bookouture. Print Length: 283 pages. Audio book: 8hrs 25 minutes. Available now

Abiding Conviction. Stephen M. Murphy

A story within a story, both of which are intertwined via the main character Dutch Francis.

Both stories involve consequences, either accidental or considered and deliberate.

Dutch is a Lawyer who usually practices David and Goliath compensation cases fighting for the little man, but he has a reputation for being a brilliant Defence Attorney in his occasional criminal case practices.

He is also married to the beautiful Ginnie, the local TV News anchor, and is generally accepted as being a nice reliable man who everybody aspires to be like.

His professional life and his private life are perfect until……..

Dutch is defending a Judge, Carlos Garcia, who is accused of murdering his wife by Poisoning her.

On the morning this tricky case is about to start Ginnie announces she’s pregnant and isn’t sure she wants the baby, she’s at the height of her fame and wants to continue her career, and she doesn’t think a child is conducive to that.

Dutch leaves the house on an unhappy note, but is happier after a phone call from his wife who assures him they can talk about it that night.

Unfortunately Ginnie doesn’t make it home, she’s kidnapped.

Dutch is facing the biggest trial of his life, and one he can’t get out of at this late stage. He’s also receiving demands from the kidnapper, and has people helping him investigate her disappearance outside of the Police Investigation, whilst trying to get the ridiculously unrealistic ransom demand money together.

Dutch is obviously finding it hard to keep his mind on the day job and give his client the best defence. Meanwhile the story of the Judges late wife, and their relationship is exposed in the Court, and Dutch is blindsided more than once.

People obviously have issues with a Judge and the list of possible alternative suspects is huge, even though the Police have only ever had one suspect.

Likewise Ginnie has her haters. She reports the news put has psychos regularly sending her, personally or via the TV station, threats.

Is Ginnie’s kidnap coincidental and a completely unrelated event, or is it designed to put Dutch of his game whilst representing the Judge.

At 293 pages this is a relatively short book, but it packs one hell of a story into those pages.

A great story which is very much like a succinct Grisham.

And watch out for the last page.

Publisher: Ocean View. Print length: 293 pages. Publish date: 5th July 2022

Murder in the Neighborhood Ellen J Green

In 1949 a young man cracked. He had brought a machete and planned to cut his neighbours heads off, but because that took planning he had time to think about it and something inside him stopped him.

Then, on Labour Day he picked up a gun and went on a twenty minute walk down the street killing people that annoyed him over the years. Some others, a young boy, a man driving his car, we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the end thirteen people lay dead.

The police knew who had done it and made a very quick arrest.

Howard Unruh was a bookish introvert who nobody though of as a threat. What made him flip, the vandalism of a back gate.

This is the story of that day, and the decades that followed. Researched deeply in the community.

Told through the story of survivors and people from the neighbourhood.

I had never heard of Unruh until I picked this book up. The first thing I did was hit Google.

He is thought by many to be Americas first “Mass Shooter” the first to pick up weapons and go on a shooting spree.

So why had I never heard of him. I’m a true crime fan. You would have thought he would have cropped up in my reading, or I’d have seen a TV documentary about the killings.

I think that is what I enjoyed so much about this book. I was new to this crime. Ellen J Green has done a marvellous job of tying together accounts and information from people who were there on the day or who knew the perpetrator and, or, his victims.

Most poignantly the accounts of Raymond, a young boy who witnessed the shootings and how he was affected by them. But most of all Unruh’s mother, who was left living in the small community he had wrecked havoc in, and how she had to live with his actions.

What drove a former model soldier, who had served in the later part of WWII, a man known for his love of the Bible to become Americas first mass shooter.

He was diagnosed to have severe mental health issues, but up until the shooting there doesn’t seem to be much of a worry about him.

He spent the rest of his life in a Maximum Security Hospital.

Did he get away with something there, was he as badly affected by mental health issues as he was diagnosed with.

I’ll let you decide.

Print length: 311 pages. Publisher: Thread. Publishing date: April 28th 2022

Stolen Angels. Rita Herron

Crooked Creek is setting up to be Americas Midsummer.

A great place to set crimes, with its idealistic location, and it’s sometimes eccentric characters.

Detective Ellie Reeves has investigated murders before but the one thing that strikes home, and that gets into her head is child kidnappings.

When the first girl is reported missing it’s bad enough. But then a reporter gets told another girl has been taken.

An unlikely alliance is formed between Reeves and the reporter. Then the discovery, these are not the first girls to go missing. Is it a coincidence that another went missing on the same day the year before.

The community is up in arms with Ellie being the focus of their consternation.

Can she find the girls.

This is a great book but the one thing that makes it standout is the perpetrator.

Rita Herron is really going down the psychological thriller road with this story and the way the perpetrator is portrayed is brilliant.

Reeves and her team are well established in the other books in the series but the peripheral characters in this book are outstanding.

As a series this is one of the best out of America at the moment.

This book elevates the series, but can be read as a standalone.

Print length: 448 pages. Publisher: Bookouture. Audio book playing time: 9 hours 15 minutes