The Next Victim Helen H. Durrant

DCI Rachel King has a problem, she once had a fling with a man that would turn out to be one of the gangsters that runs Manchester. In fact, the fling is still a bit of a dirty secret as she still harbours feelings for him.

That itself is a problem. An even bigger problem is that his name has come up as a suspect in a murder investigation.

The first body to turn up is that of a gay man who has suffered a horrific death after apparently being tortured.

When King and her team start the investigations they follow the evidence that is left at the scene, but is it reliable or is somebody playing them.

When a second body is found it looks like it is linked to the first by location, but there is a totally different manner of death.

When a third body is found, in similar circumstances as the first, the team begin to think that the second body wasn’t connected after all, but are they right.

This is a complex story weaving numerous plot lines together in a way that the reader is left in no doubt as the difficulties facing the investigation team.

At the same time the reader follows the struggle in Kings personal life. Divorced from her husband, who now lives next door, and bringing up two teenage daughters, she has her dirty secret to consider during the investigation.

Does she tell her team, and her family, about the tryst with the gangster. Where will it leave her professionally, and what will it do to her family life.

I liked this book. The crime plot is original and compelling, but what really makes the story is the issues that surround King and her secret fling.

Pages: 195

Publishers: Joffe

Available now on Amazon

The Thin Edge. Peggy Townsend


Right from the off, I am going to say I loved this book.

I loved the main character, a journalist, Aloa Snow.

I loved the little bunch of old men she hangs out with, Tic, Doc and P-Mac, collectively known as the Brain Farm.

I loved the plot.

Right, so what got me so impressed with this book.

The story is based around the murder of a woman, a woman who lives a good life style with her husband, a paraplegic ex FBI Interrogator. 

A man has been accused, a University Professor who is a poet. A bit of a strange bod which every piece of the investigation points at as being guilty. But he has one person on his side, a man he’d rather not be there at all, his father.

His father just happens to be Tic from the Brain Farm. 

Tic and his friends decide to ask the unofficial forth member of the Farm to help them, Ink, aka Aloa Snow.

She is an investigative journalist and has worked with the Farm before.

This time the investigation takes her around San Francisco, where she is drawn into the world of drug users. This leads her into The Jungle, an area under the freeway where homeless addicts live in a tented village. Not a nice place but a place which has a code of ethics, a code which would usually keeps its occupants safe from the outside word. Usually.

She becomes involved with a strange Christian cult, The Church of the Sacrificial Lamb, a cult which would be unbelievable in most countries, but seems strangely believable in America.

The Police are convinced that Tic’s son is guilty and are busily building a case against him. Aloa is not immediately convinced of his innocence, but because of a feeling of duty to the Brain Farm she starts digging.

The deeper she digs the more convinced she is that the Poetry Professor is innocent. Not a nice man, but innocent.

This book is set in San Francisco during an unusual winter fog. The fog makes the city drab and unfriendly, and best of all, the ideal backdrop for the story.

Aloa is a great character, a bit off-the-wall in her methods, she takes chances and makes leaps of faith that would scare a cop, but she isn’t tied by staying on the right side of any procedures.

I think that’s what I liked about the book. Whilst Aloa does think outside the box, it is done in a way that I would like to think I would do it. Yes she puts herself in danger at times, but it’s never an anticipated danger, it’s just the next logical step, and she’s in trouble before she knows it.

I’m not sure how well known Peggy Townsend is in the UK, I have to admit this is the first book of hers I’ve read, and it’s the second in a series, but it won’t be my last. In fact I’ve just uploaded the first book, See Her Run,to my Kindle and it will be my next read.

If she isn’t that well known yet I have a feeling that once people start on this series she’s going to become one of our must read crime fiction authors.

Pages: 237

Publishers: Thomas Mercer

Publishing Date UK: 14thMay 2019

The Quiet Hours. Michael Scanlon

Introducing a new Police Investigator, Detective Sergeant Finnegan Beck.

Newly demoted and moved from the busiest Police Station in Dublin, Beck finds himself in the small town of Cross Greg.

He is not quite what you would expect, although he’s had a bad time professionally, he still cares, even if he pretends not to.

So, when he turns up at his first crime scene, in his new town, to find a murdered woman lying out in the open with the SIO, Inspector O’Reilly, paying scant attention to procedures it rattles his cage a bit.

That is the first encounter with the old dinosaur of a detective that is O’Reilly, and things don’t get much better as the story unfolds.

He finds an ally in young Garda Claire Sanders who acts as his partner in the investigation and also covers for him when he has an occasional fall off the wagon. He’s not an alcoholic, he’s just not very good at saying no and has a low tolerance for booze.

The murdered girl is an opening into a sordid story of an underage relationship. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The small town has a criminal underworld. After all people in towns and villages have the same needs, and urges, as those in the city.

The thing is, just like every small town, everybody knows everybody else’s business. 

As Beck starts to untangle the web of lies around the investigation he thinks he starts to identify a motive for the crime and is getting closer to the person who killed the girl.

His new colleagues don’t agree with him, and treat him as the Big City Idiot, but slowly they begin to see the merit in his thoughts.

It takes another death before people start to take him seriously but is it too late to stop another killing.

As the story continues we find out why Beck has been demoted and moved away from Dublin. We see him start to build a reputation in Cross Greg, but will he ever be fully accepted.

This is a great story that’s billed as being book one in the Finnegan Beck series. 

Will I be reading book 2. Yes definitely. 

Pages: 327

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 8th February 2019

The Taken Girls G.D Sanders

I have to say that this book has really torn me.

The story is brilliant, the crime is committed in a way, and for reasons, I have never come across before.

Ten years apart two girls are abducted and held captive by someone for weeks. Then mysteriously they are found apparently unharmed their clothes cleaned and pressed, and saying there captive had treated them well.

When newly promoted DI Edina (Ed) Ogborne is transferred from the Met, under a cloud, to Canterbury she struggles to integrate into the small CID team. 

The most recent disappearance is her first case and as she struggles with the case, she also struggles with her team and her social life.

With the investigation going nowhere it’s a frustration when a local journalist gets a break in the case and publishes the story without conferring with the Police, another “X” in the column for Jo from her new boss.

The investigations continue and at least one other girl is taken, but why, and why return them unharmed and in apparent good health.

Canterbury is a small City and everybody seems to know everybody and there business. The investigation has a small town feeling in a small City.

To me this is where there is a problem with the story. There is never any urgency in the investigation. A series of kidnappings of teenage girls and there’s just a team of 4 looking at it almost on a 9-5 basis. With the SIO taking time out to go for meals and to fraternise with the locals, something she may come to regret

As much as I liked the story there were too many times when I thought “no, that would never happen”, or “stop faffing about and get on with the investigation”

There are some peripheral characters that take the reader down dead ends, and as entertaining as they are, I struggled to understand why some things happen in the story. Unless this is the building block for a series and the characters are going to reappear.

Would I read them if they did?

Yes, as frustrating as it was in places I actually really enjoyed the story.

Pages: 355

Publisher: Avon

Available now.

Her Pretty Bones Carla Kovach

Her Pretty Bones  Carla Kovach

If Carlsberg made Cops.

DI Gina Harte is back. She is probably the most troubled female Police Inspector on the shelves right now, and at the same time she is probably one of the best fictional cops on the shelves at the moment. 

When a young girl falls from the back of a van it quickly becomes apparent that she has been held against her will, she is undernourished and drug dependent, but who is she.

Harte’s teams first task is to identify the girl, then find out what has happened to her.

But this won’t be the last young girl found. Nor will it be the last one the team have difficulty identifying.

At the same time a mother is looking for her runaway daughter, could either of the two unidentified girls be her daughter, or could their story hold the key to finding her.

This book looks into the homeless runaways we see sleeping rough on our streets.

Not all of them come from unloving homes and many of them have families who are frantically looking for them, scared of every knock on the door in case its bad news.

Hartes team run their investigation without knowing about the desperate mom, are both looking into the same thing.

People on the streets tell their story to the mother, where they won’t talk to the Police. As a reader frustration builds when the two sides aren’t communicating. When the mother is left to walk the streets talking to people in the hope that she will uncover some clue to her daughters whereabouts.

The things she hears are hardly comforting, drugs, prostitution, shop lifting, abuse, assaults are day to day experiences for some of the rough sleepers.

This book made me stop and think more than many others have over the years.

Carla Kovach has written a wonderful story. Gina Harte is one of my favourite characters, but for me the star of this book is that Mom who is looking for her daughter.

I cannot begin to imagine what a parent would go through when a child goes missing. And yes I know what goes on, on the streets, but somehow it was all brought home in this book. The horrors of sleeping rough, making allegiances with people that can only bring danger, but in a weird way offer security.

This is a subject that I have read about in other books, but this is by far the best.

Pages: Kindle 2265KB

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 17thJanuary 2019

The Girl Without Skin Mads Peder Nordbo

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I have found myself getting more and more into Scandinavian Noir, both in books and in TV Series.

I have to say this is one of the best I’ve read so far, and hopefully will make it to the screen because the plot is fantastic.

Matthew Cave is a Danish journalist living in Nuuk, Greenland.

Sent to cover the discovery of a mummified body in the wilds outside the city he finds a body that may be of historical significance. So why, when it is left in-situ, does it disappear overnight; and why is the Police Officer that is left to guard it killed in a grizzly manner that reflects four murders which occurred 4 decades earlier.

Matthew and his photographer, Greenland Native Malik, begin to look into both sets of murders and it soon become obvious to Matthew that there is some connection.

Nuuk may be the capital of Greenland but it’s like a small town, everybody seems to know everybody, there are no roads in or out of the city. Secrets and alliances abound, as do illicit relationships which encourage abuse.

Then there’s Matthews own past, his American Father that disappeared when he was young, and whose presence always seems to be a shadow in the background.

When Matthew forms a partnership with a young woman, who has just been released from prison for Killing her family, when she was only 11, his life comes under more scrutiny from the Police and Politicians.

Is somebody trying to stop him from getting to the bottom of the murders? Or is it just that they don’t like outsiders.

This book has everything I like about Scandinavian Noir; crimes in close communities, introvert characters, fantastic settings, and hideous crimes.

The book had me reaching for the internet on more than one occasion. The City of Nuuk was an unknown to me, the use of a special tool for skinning whales and seals was new to me, the Greenland folk law was new to me.

So as well as being very entertaining this book educated me. What more can you ask from a good read.

Pages: 352

Publisher: Text Publishing

Available now.

Gallowstree Lane. Kate London

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The Gallowstree Lane in the title refers to a Road in London where street kids on push bikes selling drugs, and of women selling their bodies because they are hooked on the same drugs.

The book is about a gangs and the Police, but it is so, so, much more than that.

It’s about two sets of politics.

When a young boy Spencer, a foot soldier in the Buds, a drug seller, is stabbed in front of his friend and dies before he can be got to hospital, it looks like the start off the usual tit-for-tat crimes.

For the Police this is a problem, politics and territory kick in.

DI Sarah Collins is the Senior Investigating Officer for the murder, and she is determined to catch the killer before the tit-for-tats start.

DI Kieran Shaw is the head of an undercover operation that is hours away from making its big arrest, which will take some heavy duty weapons off the street and take out the head of the Buds gang. He doesn’t want to jeopardise his operation by sharing information critical to Sarah’s case.

The bosses are on both their cases but have to consider whose crime trumps whose. Is the death of one more street seller worth compromising an investigation which is about to take death off the streets.

DC Lizzie Griffiths is caught between to camps. Stationed on Sarahs team at the start of the investigation, but seconded to Kierans’ almost immediately, her alligencies are torn.

Meanwhile gang politics kick in. Why was Spencer killed and who set him up. Gallowstree Lane is Buds territory and it looks like somebody new is trying to muscle in.

As much as the story focuses on the police investigations it also follows the gang members. Ryan, the in-too-deep teenager that was with Spencer when he was killed.

Lexi a £10 street whore who is full of good intentions, but whose life is controlled by the need for the next fix.

Shakiel, the head of the Buds, and somewhat of a father figure to Ryan.

The politics of the street kicks in. Shakiel doesn’t want to lose face, or territory, or trade. Ryan wants instant revenge but Shakiel sees the bigger plan.

This book is absolutely stunning in its authenticity and one look at Kate London’s bio will tell you why.

She did her time in the Met dealing with the crimes she writes about. That experience is what elevates this book to a whole other level above most of the people writing crime fiction.

Pages: 368

Publisher: Corvus

Publishing date: 7thFebruary 2019

Available to pre-order on Amazon