The Crying House B.R Spangler

The book starts 30 years ago with a young boy being abused by his mother, but is this the making of a monster?

The abuse is carried out in a specific way, a way I haven’t heard of before, and that’s not the only first in this book.

The setting for the place the first bodies are found when the story moves to the current day, is the second. Some houses which have been abandoned are being used by local youths to party. The houses are suffering from rising sea levels and costal erosion and could collapse at any time.

The first body appears to be a consequence of careless partying, or is it?

The second body, found in the upper floors has had its blood drained and is mummified in salt, and that is the link back to the abused boy thirty years previously.

Casey White is still convalescing but is keen to lead the investigation into both deaths.

As she looks at old crimes she realises that a similar murder had happened years ago, but that the man who committed it is still in prison. He’s old, he’s frail, he’s incarcerated, he can’t be responsible can he?

Another body, a note held in its hand.

Casey’s daughter s still missing, she still sees her, she still worries about her, the note sends her into paranoia, will her daughter be next.

Spangler writes as if he’s writing for me. He ticks all my boxes, original crimes, a great setting, a main character I can engage with, peripheral characters that hold my interest, and ongoing stories that run through the series, each book its own cracking story.

This is Book 4 in the Detective Casey White series, yes it can be read as a standalone, but it’s much better read in order.

Pages: 281. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

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

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

Be Mine Forever. D.K Hood

Be Mine Forever by D.K Hood is the eleventh book in the Detectives Kane and Alton books.

A confession from the start of this blog. I’ve been on board with this series from very early on and have read all of the books in order. It’s not necessary to read all of them but I would suggest you read the first one or two before you read Be Mine Forever, as there is quite a back story involving the main characters that you might find a bit left out of if you dive straight into this one as your first.

And why would you want to miss out on the excellent earlier stories?

In this story the tightly knit team of law enforcers of Black Rock Falls are enjoying a cookout at Detective Jenna Altons house when a call comes in from a concerned father. His Cheerleader daughter has gone missing, along with her highly conspicuous car.

When the car is found, and there’s no sign of the missing girl the detectives start to worry that this is more than a father overreacting to his daughter staying out overnight

When it become obvious to Alton that not all is well at the girls home, the team begin to look at the familky demographics and the father doesn’t come out of it very well.

When a second Cheerleader goes missing the detectives start to realise that somebody wants to keep them quiet, but what about?

Then disaster for the team as one of them encounters the killer and the race is on for the rest of the team to find them before it’s too late.

The characters and the settings in this book are great, and the introduction of a new detective brings a new outlook to the team, or is he just too good to be true?

This is a great addition to a great series, and like the rest, it’s got me aching to see what happens next.

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 336. Available now

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