THE SILENT DOLLS. Rita Herron

The Silent Dolls Rita Herron

Rita Herron is a new author to me, but she shot straight to the top of my list of must read authors after reading this book.

But it was so nearly a different story. The first chapter in this book sets a scene that makes it seem like this book is going to be like a rural Lethal Weapon with the main character being a female Riggs. How wrong was I.

Thank god I went past that chapter because this turned out to be the best US crime book I’ve read for a very long time.

If you like CJ Box and his Joe Pickett books for their settings you’ll love this book, set in the woods and mountains of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

The main character, Detective Ellie Reeves, is scared of the dark. Why? Because she got lost in the woods on the Appalachian Trail when she was very young.

Now she’s a detective in Bluff County, the home of the starting point for the trail. So when a little girl goes missing it’s up to Ellie to look for her. What she uncovers during the investigation will send ripples all along the trail, and will have consequences close to home.

The girl that goes missing is not the first, but because the perpetrator has been moving along the trail nobody has put together the spasmodic disappearance of young girls in different jurisdictions, and it takes FBI agent Derrick Fox to highlight the link to Ellie.

The problem is Fox thinks two people close to Ellie, her father and a close friend, might be prime suspects.

This is a great story, set in rural, small town, America. It has everything to combine a great crime thriller with an great psychological thriller. A hunt for a missing child in the wild landscape is made harder by the approach of an in coming winter storm, a brilliant use of the occasional local radio weather reports really adds to the tension.

Ellie is a great character, amongst a cast of equally good bit part players, who hopefully will make appearances in future books.

Will there be future books, I hope so. This is billed as the first in a series, and it does end on a hell of a cliff hanger.

Pages: 366

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing date U.K. 17th July 2020

DEAD PERFECT. NOELLE HOLTEN

Dead Perfect. Noelle Holten

The third book in the Detective Constable Maggie Jamieson series.

Maggie is one of those cops that gets things done, in her own way, and sometimes to the detriment of her relationship with her colleagues, and her friends. She rubs people up the wrong way most of the time but she gets things done. So basically she is what we all want to be. She says it as it is, ignores advice, and ploughs her own farrow.

But she is fiercely protective of her few friends, and one of those friends is Criminal Psychologist Kate Maloney. Kate is another anomaly from the norm, an Irish Goth who specialises in Criminal Profiling. She’s also one of my favourite fictional characters.

So when when a body is found that is dressed, and made-up, to look like Dr Kate, Maggie is both scared that her friend is in danger, and determined to solve the murder.

It’s not until a second body, dressed and made-up, in the same way turns up that people that other people, including Kate, start to share Maggie’s concerns

What follows isn’t just a crime thriller, or a police procedural, it’s a cracking psychological thriller.

Noelle Holten has a way of writing that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The suspense she builds is enough to have me turning the pages well into the night, in fact her books are the very definition of “I couldn’t put it down”

Then there’s what is becoming her trade mark. The last page twist, the last page cliff hanger.

Just when you think the story is ending, and you turn the last page. WHAM!!!

She smacks you in the face and hooks you into the next book.

Absolutely Brilliant.

This book isn’t out until October, so if you haven’t read the first two, Dead Inside and Dead Wrong, you have time. Believe me you won’t be disappointed

Pages: 400
Publishers: One More Chapter
Publishing date: 16th October 2020.

KILLING MIND. ANGELA MARSONS

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I have been lucky enough to be in to this series since it started, and here, in book 12, we have the best one yet.

Where Angela Marsons manages to pull new, original, and gripping plots from, whilst keeping us engaged in her cast of central characters, is a mystery but long may it continue.

Detective Inspector Kim Stone works out of Halesowen Police Station. A perfect place to set a crime series as it sits right on the edge of the Black Country and the rambling countryside, giving Angela plenty of scope to have realistic crimes in real areas.

This book stretches across both. Vulnerable people are being recruited around Dudley and introduced to a “retreat” at the remote Unity Farm.

That alone wouldn’t come on Kim’s horizon but, when a girl is found dead that does. At first inspection it looks like a suicide but something pricks at Kim’s mind and she looks a bit deeper. Before long she is convinced the girl has been murdered and that the scene has been staged.

Why did the girls social media footprint end 3 years ago.  Why are her parents behaving suspiciously when they talk to the Police.

Meanwhile more bodies are found and some tenacious work by one of the team manages to link the finds with people who went missing under dubious circumstances

Eventually Unity farm becomes the focus of inquiries but how can the team penetrate the façade that the owner puts up of an innocent retreat.

I’m not taking this any further because I don’t want to give the plot away. Needless to say it’s a gripping story, and for those of you who have read the other books you know that nobody is safe and that not all of the books have a happy ending.

This made this book even more suspenseful. There were time when I caught myself holding my breath. There were other times when I exclaimed out loud, prompting raised eyebrow from my wife.

Did I enjoy the book? Hell yes!!

Pages: 430

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now.

 

 

I OWE YOU. RONA HALSALL

A great stand-alone thriller.

Sara and Matt are happily married with teenage twin daughters and a 4 year old son. Or that’s what everybody thinks.

Matt has been a bit off for months, and Sara doesn’t know why, so when she tells her sister she thinks Matts having an affair she suggests she follows him.

But Matt isn’t having an affair, he is made redundant on the same day he is followed.

What follows is a series of errors of judgement made in all innocence. Sara had invested her inheritance, against Matts advice and has lost the lot. Matt has a business idea, but he needs the money from the inheritance.

Sara can’t’ tell him she’s lost it so makes her second mistake.

And so the first two dominos are tipped, and the domino rally of bad decisions and the subsequent consequences rush through the book to its thrilling end.

This book carries a story that could so easily be true.

There is no greed involved, only ambition, secrets and lies, all of which are initially made in all innocence, all of which exasperating the situation.

This is definitely a case of things going from bad to worse, but who will be the casualties.

A great read

Pages: 328

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing date: 5th May 2020, available to pre-order

THE BODY UNDER THE BRIDGE Nick Louth

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DCI Craig Gillard is a detective in the Surrey Police. As the main character in a series of books by Nick Louth I’ve come to enjoy the character, and like all series his story ticks along throughout. Unlike many other series though, they only play a minor part of the books, which allows each of them to be read individually without deterring from the main plot.

This instalment sees Gillard trying to crack an unfathomable crime. A young woman, the daughter of a German Cabinet Minister, has gone missing. She is not underage, nor does she appear vulnerable, in fact far from it. She is the lead violin in a string quartet and an accomplished performer on stage, she is also trained in self defense. But as the daughter of a foreign diplomat pressure is put on the Police to find her.

The strange thing is that the investigation uncovers images of her on a commuter train to London, then she just disappears between stops. Her phone coverage continues but when  it’s traced only leads to more confusion.

Meanwhile one of the Detective Inspectors under Gillard’s command finds out his wife is having an affair and takes his eye-off-the-ball during the investigation to uncover his wife’s infidelity. A distraction he, Gillard, and the rest of the team could do without.

As the investigation continues a storm hits the South East of England, and the ensuing floods lead to the discovery of more dead people, not all of who have died as a result of the storm.

This book is a great read. It rattles along at a hectic pace and just when you think you have it sussed, it wriggles down another route, until the last few pages unveil a brilliant conclusion.

Nick Louth is the only author I’ve come across that has used the floods that the UK suffered in 2019 and 2020 as tool for his story, and it works really well. In fact it raised some good questions in my mind……but I won’t share them for fear of spoiling the book. Needless to say this is right up my alley and I spent hours navigating Google to see if anything like this has happened in the real world.

As I write this blog we are in week 3 of “self-solation” during the Covid19 virus outbreak. I wonder if this will feature in future books. If it does I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nick Louth being one of the first, and no doubt using it to great effect.

Pages: 288

Publisher: Canelo

Publishing Date: 30 April 2020, Available to pre-order on the usual sites.

TAKEN FROM HOME. B.R Spangler

I have a confession, until I read this book I had not heard of B.R Spangler. Well I have now and I shall be looking forward to the release of his books, especially in this series.

When I see that a book is the first in a series I always think, “That’s a brave thing to say, what if it’s no good”.

There is no such worry with this book. The story and the characters are great and I have a feeling this one is going to fly off the shelves.

Detective Casey White is a cop on enforced leave following an incident in her own department. Casey’s daughter Hannah was taken from the road outside her house 14 years ago, and Casey hasn’t stopped looking for her. So whilst she’s on leave she follows up an old cold lead that she rediscovered when she was moving her stuff around on her home incident wall.

As she approaches her destination, a holiday town on the coast, she comes across a young woman in the road.

The woman has just escaped from her own hell and Casey rushes her to the nearest hospital.

Whilst she’s there she comes across one of the towns former Sheriffs, Jericho Flynn, who is now marine patrol officer.

It becomes apparent that the town has recently lost its detective and needs help investigating where the young woman had come from, and when a second, seemingly unrelated crime, occurs aboard a Super Yatch the towns Mayor, and Jericho convince Casey to stay and help.

What follows is a great story. Small town USA, a relatively sleepy place, becomes the national focus because of the story of the Super Yatch. Meanwhile Casey and Jericho are convinced that the story of the woman, found by Casey, and the Yatch incidents are unrelated and start a second investigation.

From there on the crimes start to increase, and at times the lines between the two investigations become blurred.

But, what a story.

This book is fantastic. The characters would stand out in any book, but as the start of a new series this is a great introduction.

I love it when I find a new author that I like. It’s even better when I find them at the beginning of a news series.

I’m into this one from the start, and I’m here for the long term.

Pages: 378

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing date UK: 15th May 2020

THE SECRET ADMIRER. CAROL WYER

The Secret Admirer.      Carol Wyer

When I reviewed the last book in this series I asked, How is Carol going to top that.

Well she has, and she’s done it in style.

The start of the book picks up 3 months after the end of the previous one and finds DI Natalie Ward living on her own, in a small flat, getting ready to return to work for the first time since the shocking conclusion of Blossom Twins.

She’s not sure of how she is going to react to some of the scenes she knows she is going to have to attend, the first one couldn’t be much worse.

A young woman has had Acid thrown in her face and has died a horrible death.

When a second murder follows quit quickly afterwards it appears to be related.

With no time for a gradual reintroduction to work, and battling her own demons, Nat and her team are in a race against time to stop a killer who is quickly escalating.

This book, like all of Carol Wyer’s Books, had me gripped from the very beginning, but where Carols books differ from so many others is that she keeps me hooked with every chapter.

She recognises that many crimes affect small groups of people, and manages to find a way of engaging me with every character, in her small cast of characters

Natalie, herself, is one of the best fictional cops I’ve ever read about. Her story across the series has been fascinating, and at times heart breaking.

The occasional characters which make up her team, and her family, are stunningly written and add a depth to each book with their own intertwining story-lines.

But, in my opinion, the criminals and victims stories always give the books extra edge.

All of these combine in this book. Natalie and her ongoing emotional and mental struggles. The small community of characters involved in the crime, two houses full of students, and their families. The twist in the plot which sees Natalie’s husband come under suspicion.

At 413 pages this book is a bit longer than the average book released these days, but every page holds something. As the DJ’s of old used to say it’s “All Thriller and No Filler”

Could this book be read as a stand-alone? Yes

Should this book be read as a stand-alone. No, why would anybody want to miss out on the rest of the series.

A brilliant read from one of my favourite authors.

Pages: 413

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now.

DEAD WRONG. NOELLE HOLTEN

Two years ago DC Maggie Jamieson was a major player in putting mass murderer Bill Raven behind bars. Maggie had been the main interviewer as Raven confessed to chopping up at least 3 women, and although he named them, he didn’t say where their remains were, and they were never found.

Now he wants to retract his confessions, throwing doubt onto everything about the original conviction, including the in Jamieson’s integrity.

Then dismembered body parts start to show up. Forensic tests show that they belong to the women that Raven confessed to killing. The problem is he’s been in jail for 2 years, and the women have only been dead a matter of days. Where have these women been, and who is killing them.

The clock is ticking as Maggie tries desperately to solve the murders and tries and link Raven to them before he is released on appeal.

Maggie’s visits to interview Raven are a complete mind game. She knows it but is having trouble convincing her own colleagues, let alone the legal system.  So she turns to her friend, Dr Kate Maloney, to help with a psychological profile.

What a story. Noelle Holten is fan of Crime Fiction, and a skilled writer. This book played on every perceived conception I had as I was trying to work out who was the killer. She has written it in such a way that I was kept guessing right up to the end, and what an ending it is.

The characters are fantastic. Maggie is close to being insubordinate, yet insecure at the same time. Bill Raven is brilliantly written, as good a nemesis as I have ever come across.

This book will take your breath away more than once, but don’t relax, one of the biggest gasps comes right in the very last line of the book.

Pages: 432

Publisher: One More Chapter

Available now 

Buried Deep. SUSAN WILKINS


It seems to be the season for the start of new series in the Crime Book genre. This one will stand out as one of the best and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Detective Sergeant   Megan Thomas has just transferred from the Met to Devon. Having spent the last 5 years as an undercover officer she is dreading going back to normal policing. Has she still got what it takes to be a “normal” detective. Can she deal with the PTSD that she suffers from following that undercover work. Will the team she is assigned to give her a chance.

What easier way to start with her new team than a murder, and a teenage rape, within a small community. As well as Megan doubting herself she has a fast-rising-star of a Detective Chief Inspector,  who is only interested in protecting her own career, as a boss.

The first body is found in a septic tank and Megan has a panic attack when she crawls inside to establish the position of the body and if it’s accidental or murder.

That’s not the only thing that triggers a reaction from Megan, and as her crisis of confidence escalates, Megan begins to question her future in the Police Force.

The settings for the crimes, and the characters in the story, are compelling. At times my empathy for Megan slipped but I enjoyed reading how she copped with her personal issues. The young DC’s who hold no bias against a Met cop coming into their team is a juxtaposition compared with the old hands who perceive her as a threat.

The fact that Megan is now fighting crime in a town where everybody seems to know every bodies business is also a complete contrast to her old work.  Town gossip is a hindrance and at time her ally but choosing when to use it becomes not just a police issue but also a family one.

Publisher: Bookouture

Pages: 325

Publishing date: April 6th 2020 available to preorder on Amazon

 

 

 

POISON Jacqui Rose

This “Gangland” genre of fiction is getting more popular, so I thought I’d give it a go. Poison is not the first of the type I’ve read but it’s certainly the best.

Franny is in Prison on remand, she’s a hard woman who’s used to being the boss, but in prison she’s just another inmate who gets targeted by the hard knocks. There’s a hierarchy and as the book starts Franny is far from the top of it.

As the story unfolds we find out why Franny’s in prison. Not just the crime she’s alleged to have committed, but also the duplicity that has taken place to put her behind bars.

Meanwhile outside, the prison, the triangular relationship between a 16 year old drug addict who is trying to straighten out her life, a young drug addict father who is trying to pay back massive debts, and a Criminal who is a friend of both and is trying to look after them, is putting everybody in danger, including Franny.

Throw into the mix a very crocked Police Officer and this is one hell of a story.

Misplaced loyalties within the criminal fraternity provide some great twists and turns but all of the strands of the story run together in a very neat plot.

For crime fiction lovers this story is a diversion from the usual cop-hunts-criminal type of tale. It still holds intrigue, and poses dilemma’s, but from  a completely different side of life.

The things that most people would think are wrong, drug taking, drug dealing, prostitution, abuse, money sharking, are all part of day to day life for the characters in this book. It’s hard to find anybody in the book to actually class as the ultimate victim, as all the characters are victims of some type. For me that means that although I have no sympathy, or empathy for any of them, I can understand and tolerate their behaviour.

That made the book easy for me to read. I loved it.

Pages: 403

Publishers: Avon

Publishing Date: Available now