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

After Everything You Did. Stephanie Sowden

Another new writer to me, but one I will definitely be looking for in the future.

A young woman, Reeta, wakes up shackled to a bed in hospital.

Two Federal Agents tell her she is the killer of at least four women, two of which are still missing.

The problem is Reeta has suffered serious injuries and has no memories pre-waking up in hospital.

The Agents want to keep her in the blind about her past, unconvinced she has no memory.

They try to deal with her to get back the two missing bodies, but she is adamant she can’t remember a thing.

Set in 1966 in America, with the lack of todays science, two Agents try to bully and cajole a confession from Reeta.

Nobody will tell Reeta who she is, she wants to know where her family are. Latching on to one news report she approaches the reporter to find out about her past life.

Carol, the reporter initially hates Reeta, but soon realises she really does have no memory, and starts to be suspect of the Federal Agents methods. Surely they should tell Reeta about her past.

Her past involves been born into a religious colt, led by the mysterious Jeb.

I was convinced I knew how this plot was going to culminate. I was wrong.

There are little red herrings all leading in one direction, but I couldn’t call it misleading, more intriguing.

The characters are brilliantly engaging, and the plot is compelling. This book had me in a bear hug from page 1 and kept me there until the last full stop.

Print length: 327 pages. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date : 7th April 2022

The Dying Game. Ruhi Choudhary

Do you want to play a game..a simple question with chilling consequences.

A beautiful woman murdered, a local man committed suicide leaving a note saying he had to killed her.

A open and closed case until another person is murdered.

Then the first clue, a letter. somebody is showing people how vulnerable a member of their family is. The question. Do you want to play a game. Kill the person I deliver to you or a member of your family dies. Your choice.

Detective Mackenzie Price is assigned the case, and immediately starts to send ripples through the small community she works in.

One of the families involved is old money rich, and they have influence.

But with more people going missing, and now knowing they only have a limited time to find them, she doesn’t care who she upsets, or what the consequences might be.

The way Ruhi Choudhary writes always grips me. She has a way of guiding the story down avenues that always make me think, I’ve got this, only to find it’s another clever plot twist.

But that’s what makes it so good. Real police investigation is all about building hypotheses, the investigators investing their theory, until it’s proven wrong and they have to back track and build another

It’s always about the clues you don’t see, often right in front of your eyes, the clue that only takes relevance when that one piece of the jigsaw falls into place, and you finally see the relevance of the picture.

This is where Choudhary is the master. She lets little things slip into the story that help build the final hypothesis. There’s no sudden revelation of a clue, or suspect who hasn’t been in the story until almost the end.

Everything is there in the build up, but can you spot it. I’m usually quite good at spotting it, but not till really late in these stories.

A great book in a brilliant series. Yes it can be read as a standalone. No it won’t ruin the earlier books if you choose to go back and read them.

Loved it.

Print length: 382 pages. Audio book running time: 10 hours 45 Publisher: Bookouture

Lin Su Yoshimura The Days of Darkness. J.C Walker

Before I write anything else I have to say I really enjoyed this book

My dilemma is I really don’t know why.

If I was to list all the things I don’t like this book would be it.

I don’t like something that stretches the believable, this book has quite a bit of that in a James Bond opening sequence type of way.

I don’t like Ninja avenging angels. Lin Su is the epitome of one of these.

I don’t like villains being portrayed as the hero’s, yes you guessed it that’s exactly what happens in this book.

But it’s thoroughly compelling .

The characters are really engaging. The pace of the story is frenzied in places yet, in line with the training of Lin Su, slow and peaceful in others.

The disgraced military hero Major Jason Stone turns out to be a clever man with the weirdest moral compass.

Drug and Club Boss Matthew King is a rouge with a heart.

Together they make a great story.

What the Gumph on the back says

Lin Su Yoshimura, trained in martial arts at a young age by her parents, is kidnapped as a teen in China and sold into the sex trafficking trade which lands her in the United States of America. She is rescued from an abusive pimp by Matthew King, a New York drug dealer. Lin Su becomes a part of his organization as she wrestles with the horrors of her past.

They are approached by Jason Stone, a disgraced ex-Special Forces officer, who convinces them to raid Juan Ramirez, leader of a notorious Mexican cartel. Stone assembles a team of well-trained mercenaries accompanied by Lin Su and King to carry out the operation deep in the Mexican jungle which yields a huge quantity of cocaine and savage outcomes that neither expected.

I was offered this book to review and I’m glad I read it. Would I have picked it up in a shop. No. But that would have been a big mistake.

It looks like I’m going to have to start expanding my reading and check out new genres

Print length: 482 pages. Publisher: Groove Productions.

The Drowning Girls. Lisa Regan

The latest in a cracking series and it had me reading well into the early hours.

The publishers material for this book gives a brief insight into the story

A knock on the door late in the evening can only mean trouble for Detective Josie Quinn, but fear chokes her at the news that one of her own team is missing. No one has seen Denton PD’s Press Liaison Amber for days and, as she follows the message scrawled on the frosted windscreen of Amber’s car to a nearby dam, Josie hears a piercing scream that tells her she’s too late. But the body they pull from the freezing water is not Amber…

Josie won’t sleep until she finds a name for the beautiful girl left to drown, and the meaning of the numbers scribbled in a tattered pink diary found on Amber’s desk. She must stay strong and focused for her close-knit team. But as rumors of an argument the night Amber disappeared surface, can she even trust her own colleagues?

But what it doesn’t give you is the glimpse into the emotions involved in the investigation. The who-can-you-trust paranoia that settles over Quinn, and starts to tear her team apart.

Race against the clock stories are common in fiction these days, but I haven’t read one so well written as this for a long time.

I read this book in a day. But that day actually spread well past my usual lights-out, book-down, time, and into the small hours of the following morning. It had me hooked, and I think if it had been another hundred pages long I’d have still carried on reading until I’d finished.

Pages: 391 (Print length). Publisher: Bookouture. Available now