Shadow Falls. Wendy Dranfield

A religious man Nate had left the process of becoming a Priest to get engaged to the woman he loved, but she was murdered and Nate was wrongly convicted of her Murder

After 17 years on Death row his conviction was overturned and he was released, with a very healthy compensation.

Now he’s making up for lost time. With a penchant for Colombian marching powder, and a love for the ladies he is now an unlicensed Private Detective.

So who else would ex Detective Madison Harper turn to for help.

Madison had been a successful cop, working her way up to being a Detective in Vice and working undercover.

Until she was framed for the voluntary manslaughter of a colleague.

Having served six years of her ten year sentence she was released penniless and without any hope. Working as a waitress amongst an area awash with the prostitutes she shares her accommodation with she has saved every penny she can to hire Nate to help her prove her innocence.

Nate doesn’t want to take the job, especially as Madison still can’t afford him, and her suggestion of working for him for free doesn’t fit in with his style of work, or life. Then there’s the fact that she’s and ex cop and he hates the Police

When a girl goes missing her grandmother contacts Nate to find her, because the local Police are not getting anywhere. So he takes Madison on for a trial period to help him

The first book in a new series rightly concentrates on the main character(s) and their relationship.

The case of the missing girl leads to an investigation that tests that, and their own convictions

Without giving spoilers there are subplots involving Nate and Madison that are going to run through the series, and will make people want to buy into it.

Can it be read as a standalone, yes, but I suspect that once you have read the first, you will want to find out more about this unorthodox and at times unlikely crime fighting team.

Pages: 391. . Publisher: Bookouture Available now

Dying To Be Her. Greg Olsen

When an entitled brat, Brianna Connor, has a Halloween Party whilst her parents are away things, surprisingly don’t seem to go to badly.

Unless, that is, you are the naive English exchange student that is inconveniently murdered in the hosts bedroom.

From the beginning of the investigation local Police Chief, Annie Garnett has problems with “This girl is a self centred, condescending brat” Brianna, and her thick-as-a-brick, and equally entitled boyfriend Drew.

In scenes similar to the immediate aftermath of the Meredith Kercher murder, Brianna and Drew, kiss and canoodle, and basically act in a flippant juvenile manner.

Spending more time on social media complaining about her ruined party, and visiting fancy lingerie stores, than helping with the investigation Brianna soon gets under everybody’s skin.

Meanwhile twin sisters Taylor and Hayley believe they have psychic abilities, and think they knew about the murder before the news broke.

When they receive a mysterious text with a case file number and “I know who killed her” written in it, they decide to go all Nancy Drew and try to solve the case.

As this is the first murder for over a decade in the sleepy town of Port Gamble they have just as much experience as Chief Garnett, and it shows.

What follows is two investigations twisting around each other, and often frustrating each other, before reaching a tense ending.

I love the characters and storyline in this book. A few years ago it would have seemed outrageous that teenagers could act in the way Brianna and Drew do, but today we see enough of them on TV to know that they exist.

Olsen has used this to his advantage. The teenagers in this book are despicable yet enthralling.

The Police Chief couldn’t be further removed from most fictional cops. A giant of a woman that finds it hard to buy fashionable clothes that fit her, investigating her first murder, with the main suspects spending more on knickers than she spends on her entire wardrobe.

The book drew me in by setting up my loathing of Brianna, and sympathy for Grant, but took me on a real rollercoaster of a trip right up to the very last page.

Pages: 300. Publisher: Bookouture. Published: 2nd February 2021

Salt Water Graves. B.R Spangler

I can’t believe so much happens in this book, and all in 276 pages.

Detective Casey White’s life is finally back on track, until the second page. She’s late, as she says not late as in for a meeting, late as in pregnant. She’s in love, with the father and they are about to move in together. He has a great job and is up for election to his old post.

Then the first body is found, and there’s a link to her boyfriend, Jericho Quinn. Coincidence?

Not when a second body is found which is also linked to him

Could it really be Jericho, the one person she has let into her life, the one person she really trusts, or is somebody trying to frame him, or undermine his run for Sheriff

So who can Casey trust.

Then things really start to unravel. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series the impact of the rest of the story might be a bit diluted, but without giving too much away to readers who have…..there is one hell of a twist in this story.

A twist that will have Casey reeling. The physical and mental trauma she goes through in this book are nothing compared to the emotional trauma she suffers.

Each of the books in this series end on a cliffhanger, but nothing before will compare to this one.

Spangler has a way of writing that combines the cosy, small town mystery, with the darkest of psychological thrillers.

The books are written in the first person with Casey White being the main narrator so the reader is aware of every thought, every doubt, and every emotion. It’s impossible to read these books and not feel empathy for her.

So when Spangler puts her through the mill, and he does, you go with her.

An excellent read in a wonderful series

Pages: 276. Publisher: Bookouture Publishing date: 14th December 2020

Promises In The Dark

The Alton and Kane series is one of my favourite American crime series.

The settings, the characters, the crimes, everything adds ups to create great stories.

This one is no exception but it is so much darker than the others.

D.K Hood has created a great setting in the town of Black Rock Falls. In this book she has expanded the scene with the discovery of a series of caves, and without giving spoilers, the subterranean parts of the story are genuinely breath stopping.

The book starts with a kidnapping and a deadly fire.

A shocking start which gets more shocking with the discover of a body in a pool.

But what’s more shocking is Altons discovery that the family may have a link to somebody very close to her.

As the investigation gathers pace Alton and Kane go underground, literally, and that’s when things get dark, and not just in a luminosity way.

The caves have a way of bringing secrets out, secret fears, confessions, stories. But will “what happens in the caves, stay in the caves”

The pair are in a race to find the latest victim of a kidnap in the labyrinth of caves

This book takes the reader on a journey that will see the end of, or explanation to, one of the main series story threads, and it’s brilliant.

I really like these books. I always find the best books have strong characters, but quite often it’s just the lead character that stands out, and sometimes their side kick.

In this series all the characters stand out. As a reader I find I’ve invested in all of them, even the criminals, and in this book the criminal really stands out.

Please don’t read this as a stand alone. If you haven’t read any of the previous books in the series you’ve missed a treat, and this book will be all the better for reading the others.

Pages: 367. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

The Drowned Woman. C.J Lyons

This book is what I would call a slow burner, but even slow burners can lead to infernos, and this one is definitely worth sticking with.

17 years ago a car drives off the road into a river, the driver a woman is killed. Before she dies she takes hold of her fiancée’s hand for comfort. But he’s not there.

Today that fiancee is now Detective Sergeant Luca Jericho, and he’s still grieving, and wondering why his wife to be drove of the road leaving him a on his own, when everything seemed to be going so well

Jericho is called away from the site of the crash, on the seventeenth anniversary, to a sudden death. An old lady is dead at the bottom of the stairs and her confused husband is in a panicked state.

Jericho calls in Dr Leah Wright, who’s husband was killed only a month before, to talk to the elderly husband.

But as part of her investigation she talks to an old lady in the same building. She has the unusual job of proof reading obituaries and she is convinced there’s a serial killer sending her false ones. Ones which report the accidental death of people before they die.

As soon as Jericho finds out about the false obituaries he makes the connection to his wife death. Is he clinging to a false hope, or will he have answers after nearly two decades.

As I said at the start this is a slow burner of a book. There’s not the usual hook at the beginning to get you into it. But as I also said even slow burners can lead to infernos, and this is one hell of a story.

What this story has got is suspense, and it’s got it in bucket fulls. I can’t quite remember gripping a book so tightly whilst I read it for a very long time.

Pages: 342, Publisher: Bookouture, Available now.

Wild Flower Graves. Rita Herron

Still struggling with her family secrets which devastated her in “The Silent Dolls” Detective Ellie Reeves is about to be pitched into another nightmare investigation

Just as Crooked County is getting over the fact that a serial killer had been stalking the Appalachian Trail, and that the much loved ex Sheriff, might have known about the killer for years, and done nothing about it, more bodies start to be discovered.

Ellie is pitched straight back into the deep end when the first body is discovered. A young woman has had her throat cut, been dressed, had makeup applied, and posed in a remote beauty spot on the Trail. Monday’s Child

With a section of the famous poem sewn into her mouth the victim is the first of potentially 7. When the next body is found the following day it becomes obvious that Ellie is in a race against time

Then the killer contacts her and she realises things are personal, and that the killer is taunting her, but it’s much more personal than that, he has already taken a good friend of hers, a fellow Police Officer.

Racing to find the killer Ellie finds two allies, one thrust upon her by her boss, the other a man she approaches herself. Both men are not her biggest fans

Ranger Cord McClain knows the Trail like nobody else but Ellie as good as accused him of being the serial killer in the previous case, she knows she needs his help but will he help her

Her boss calls in FBI Agent Derrick Fox, a man who helped with the previous investigation but who blew her family apart in his dogged pursuit of the killer who started by killing his little sister.

Not only does Ellie need to build bridges and restore relationships with the two men but she needs to act as a piece keeper, the men do not like or trust each other.

This story is outstanding. Earlier this year I reviewed Our Daughters Bones, the first in the series, and I raved about it. If anything this book is even better.

The setting of the Appalachian Trail is perfect for crime fiction. 2000 plus miles of wilderness walks stretching up the east of the United States, off grid communities, unique characters doted around a fantastic landscape, it’s perfect for intense storylines

Ellie Reeves is a character that it’s very easy to like, and emphasise with, but she can be frustratingly stubborn. Her professional relationships with Fox and Cord, the problems she has with the weird jurisdictional system of American Law Enforcement, and the hostile gossiping of much of the local community, following her family’s involvement with the previous killer, all add to the story.

The two books in the series so far, are amongst my favourite books this year. Can this one be read as a standalone? Yes it can, Rita Herron back refers enough to give the reader a full understanding of what happened in the first book.

But why miss out. Read The Silent Dolls first, then read this one. If you don’t you’ll kick yourself because you’ll definitely go back to it.

Pages 409, Publisher Bookouture, Publishing Date, 3rd December 2020

In The House Of The Night. Donald Levin

I’ve made a rookie error. I read this book, and loved it, and then found out it’s the latest in a series. Now I have to go back and read the others

It’s a testimony to Donald Levin that the book read so well, as a stand-alone, that I didn’t realise until I got to the section at the end where his other books are promoted.

So what made it so good a read. The characters, the settings, the story of the crime, everything

The story starts like an old joke, A Rabbi and a Priest walk into a detective agency……..

In this case it is the agency that ex Police Detective Martin Preuss works. A friend of theirs, a University Professor, has been murdered and the two don’t like the direction the Police Investigation is taking.

The murdered Professor, Charles Bright, was a peace loving man, and as much as Preuss digs he can’t find anybody with a bad word to say about him, which really does not fit with the way he died.

Then he finds a spurious link to a white supremacist group, but why would a mild mannered, piece loving old man, get caught up with this group.

I was into this story from the first page. The crime is a bit symbolic of some of the stories coming out of America at the moment, so it felt really current.

Even though Preuss is an established character his back story is explained throughout the book and he is a man that is easy to like and have empathy for.

The realism, which is one of my main hooks, is there throughout.

It was a pleasant surprise to find this is the latest in a series. I often say in reviews that I wish I’d only just discovered an author, whose books I enjoy, so I had the whole back catalogue to read. Well this time I am that reader and I can’t wait to get stuck into these books.

Pages: 336. . Available now

SILENCED GIRLS. Roger Stelljes

20 years ago twin sisters are growing up in small town Manchester Bay Minnesota. At 17 they are beginning to make the discoveries that all teenagers make. During the July 4th celebrations one sister goes missing, whilst the other goes off with a boy, a decision she will always struggle with.

The surviving sister, Tori, remembers her father “The Sheriffs” words to them “When a young girl goes missing, she’s never found”

That’s the case Jessie is never found

20 years later Tori is living in New York, and is an FBI agent. She left Manchester Bay just after her sister went missing and only returned for the Sheriffs funeral 18 months later. She has no intention of going back.

Until another girl goes missing in very similar circumstances, and Tori is sent a letter telling her to look at that case for similarities. The problem being the letter was sent the day before the new disappearance.

The old town has grown. Her father’s deputy is now Sheriff and welcomes her help as long as his lead investigator, Will Braddock agrees.

People are glad she’s back but somebody has invited her. Why? Is she now a target?

Some families have done well out of the towns growth. Others are still in shock from Jessie’s unsolved disappearance

Between Tori and Will the investigation starts to uncover some worrying threads and the story rattles along at a great pace. Until the end, but how will that end resolve the latest crime, and will it answer the mystery surrounding Jessie’s disappearance and give Tori some kind of closure.

This book is billed as being Agent Tori Hunter Book 1. I can only hope it is the start of a long new series. The story is brilliant.

The characters are addictive and I couldn’t help but get hooked on the relationships that Tori rebuilds, and how she works with Will and his team.

One of her old friends “ Steak” is now a cop and is working the case with his partner Detective Eggleston. Yes. Detectives Steak and Eggs. Any author that can dream up that little aside to put a bit of humour in the book is alright with me.

I really enjoyed this story . In fact I’d been going through one of those lulls when I was finding it hard to settle into a book and was having difficulty finding the enthusiasm to read. This book hooked me from the start and got me back into my reading. Brilliant

Pages: 478. Publisher: Bookouture. Publishing Date: 11th November 2020

Runaway Justice. Chad Zunker

Sometimes, just sometimes, a book comes along and makes you sit back and smile.

This is one of those. It’s not a complex story, it’s not a heart stopping story. It is a story that flows believably from one scene to the next. It is a story that makes you suddenly realise you’ve had your head in a book for hours, and that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in it.

Parker Barnes is 12 years old and living on the streets of Austin Texas. Why? Because both his parents have died and he has run away from an abusive foster father. He’s not doing bad fending for himself and making friends amongst the homeless until he witnesses a murder. Then things start to go bad.

Arrested on another matter Parker finds legal representation in David Adams, an ex big company Lawyer who now runs a small business specialising in working with the vulnerable groups in society.

The problem is the person responsible for the murder wants Parker silenced. Permanently.

The FBI have also identified Parker and think he has something to do with the murder, and they want to talk to him. As you’d expect a young homeless person to be, Parker is scared of them and thinks they’ll frame nine or send him back into the system of abusive foster parents.

So at the first chance he runs.

The story of Parker trying to evade being caught by the FBI and the criminals is interwoven with the story of David Adams and his team trying to solve the original murder, they think it’s the only way to make Parker safe and bring him out of hiding, but is it. are they really putting themselves in as much danger as Parker.

This is a cracking story told at just the right pace.

A new author on my list of must reads, I’ve just read Chad Zunker’s Twitter feed. His pinned tweet says

“Three years ago I sat on this bench in the mall after reading another soul-crushing publishing email rejection. A twenty year journey already filled with over one thousand rejections. Today I sit here with the #1 book in the Kindle Store. Fight for your dreams!”

That is him talking about his first book An Equal Justice the first in the David Adams story, I’ve now uploaded it onto my Kindle and I’m going straight into this next.

What higher recommendation can I give.

So Chad, keep the dream alive, keep the books coming, you are one hell of a story teller.

THE INNOCENT GIRLS. B.R Spangler

The Innocent Girls. B.R Spangler

Earlier this year I read the first book in the Detective Jane Casey series, and since then I’ve been desperate to get my hands on the next one. So when The Innocent Girls dropped into my inbox I couldn’t wait to get started, and I wasn’t disappointed, what a cracking book.

Jane is now a permanent fixture in Outer Banks North Carolina. The ex big city cop decided to stay as she’s convinced she is getting closer to finding her missing daughter Hannah. She’s also fallen for Ex sheriff Jericho Flynn and is enjoying life as a small town cop, life is ticking along quite nicely

Then a 13 year old girl witnesses the vicious murder of her parents in a motor home, but after she escapes she runs off to a cult like church without reporting the murder to the police.

When the bodies are discovered Casey’s team start to investigate. One of the bodies has a strange pattern carved into their chest and various theories take the team down different avenues.

When a second murder scene is found, with more carvings on the body, the team also realise another young girl is missing.

The two cases have to be connected and Casey soon makes a connection to a strange Cult-Preacher and his pop-up church.

What follows is an investigation into a series of murders that is intriguing in its complexity.

Murders carried out in a vicious manner, mysterious post mortem wounds inflicted on the bodies, links to children in the families, who never seem to be hurt, and as the team try to make sense of it the murders get a bit too close to home.

The story is brilliant. It’s just complex enough to keep you guessing without crossing into the realms of improbability.

The story is made all the better by the team that Casey is  building around her, professionally and in her personal life. There are some great characters that are going to be fun to watch develop.

This series has started out with two of the most addictive stories I’ve read for a long time , the very definition of “ page-turners” I really am excited to read what comes next.

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 3rd September 2020