Her Dying Wish. Carla Covach

I have to admit to a vested interest in this book. I have an acknowledgment in the back for some advice I gave to the author.

Carla is one of my favourite authors, and her DI Gina Harte is one of the best characters in modern crime fiction. So it was a privilege to be asked, but this is an honest review

What the gumph says:

Kerstin is wide awake. While her family sleeps around her, the devastating secret her husband just told her is spinning through her mind. Does she really know the man she married? And are her children still safe in this small town?

She jumps as she hears a sound from outside. Peering into the inky darkness, her eyes focus on movement at the bottom of the garden. Someone is out there.

She watches as the figure strikes a single match. Kerstin gasps at the sight of the face staring back at her, smiling, as if enjoying her fear.

A car door slams and the figure makes a dash for the trees, leaving something behind – a small memorial candle. As it flickers in the darkness, Kerstin knows exactly what it means. Someone is coming for her, and her family is in terrible danger…

As I was reading it I was making notes for my review, but unusually for me they were one word bullet points.

Manipulation, Murder, Deceit, Blackmail, Victims or Murderers.

The very last thing I wrote in my note was.

Certainly no Occam’s Razor in solving this one.

How Covach even conceived this story makes me wonder about the way an authors mind works. It’s brilliant.

Children are kidnapped, family homes are set on fire, people are murdered. And all this is connected to a small group of seemingly innocent people.

As a reader I am always trying to work out where a story is going to go, who is the next victim, who is the perpetrator, usually with great success.

Not with this book. I loved the crimes, the settings and the story. Did I work out who was responsible and why? Not a chance.

Even though I made a note half way through reading it, 50/50, because I thought the mystery had been solved. I was wrong. It was just another well designed, well written, turn in the plot.

This is a book that just keeps twisting and turning from the first house fire, to the final arrest this book had me hooked.

Print length: 367. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now.

The Monument Murders. Rachel McLean

Straight off I’m going to say this is one of my favourite series. I enjoyed the original books set in Birmingham, and these Dorset based books.

The Dorset books are neither a continuation of the Birmingham books, or a separate series, they are very much a spin-off with overlapping characters.

Rachel McLean has a way of making realistic, normal paced, modern policing exciting.

She has a great skill for a flamboyant murder scene which always puts a different spin on the scene examination.

But what I think she has mastered is the ability to take a very thin twine of a thread of a story, and weave it through all of her books.

As with the Birmingham series there is the hint of Police misdoings. A problem that is niggling away at DCI Lesley Clarke, a problem that her boss seems to want her to look into, but at the same time won’t acknowledge the exists.

In each of the Dorset series this thread is intertwined with the main crime to be investigated.

I mentioned flamboyant scenes. The first murder victim in this book is found spread eagled over the local landmark, the Swanage Globe.

An architect has had his throat cut and a note has been left with the body, Go Home, is written in his own blood.

The fact that the victim is black, and the words on the note, instantly raise the possibility of a race crime. But he’s an out-of-towner working on a controversial project, so the reference to going home may not be race based.

With the investigation team split between the two hypotheses cracks start to appear.

Can Clarke keep everything together, the team, the main investigation, the side investigation into a crime that may not even have happened, and her relationship with a criminal defence barrister who just happens to be representing one of her main suspects.

What a book, and what a clever ending………..

I can’t wait for the next one.

Pages: 352. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing. Available now.

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

The Stolen Ones. Angela Marsons

When a man, Steven Harte, walks into a Police Station and asks to speak to Detective Inspector Kim Stone, with information about the disappearance of a young girl 25 years ago she initially gives him short shrift.

But when he says she will want to talk to him again soon, just as another little girl goes missing under very similar circumstances , he gets her attention.

Is he building an alibi, does he know something relevant, or is he just playing with Kim’s head.

And, as if one person playing with her head isn’t enough, the Queen of Psychopaths, Kim’s nemesis, Dr Alex Throne is sitting in prison trying to plot her way to freedom.

She knows Kim won’t be able to resist visiting her if she can get a message to her, all she needs is a phone with a number Kim doesn’t recognise. Easy for a functioning, psychotic, sociopath. But somebody will have to suffer.

Meanwhile. Kim’s team are investigating the latest disappearance and Stacy starts to notice a pattern.

The little girl that went missing 25 years ago was never found, but was she the first.

To find the clues that will help the team find the latest girl the team start to dig into historical cases, none of which had been solved.

How can respected business man Steven Harte possibly be linked to all of these cases?

Why is he leading Kim on a merry dance across the Black Country. He seems to anticipate their every move, and ingratiates himself with her team.

Can he possibly be a cold blooded kidnapper, and killer?

All the time the investigation is going on Dr Alex is plotting, should Kim be spending more time making sure she stays locked away, or is she being blindsided.

This is a belter of a story.

I recently watched a live Stream with Angela Marsons talking about how she comes up with stories for this amazing series. The way a little thing will catch her attention, then develops into a plot.

The way she is intrigued by finding out about specialist fields within Criminology and Forensics. The fact that she has bookshelves full of research text books.

It’s not a coincidence that this is the favourite series of so many people, selling millions around the world. Was it Tiger Woods who said “the harder I practice, the luckier I get”

Angela puts the hard miles into her research, often digging deep just to give a short chapter authenticity and realism.

The people, the settings, the stories, are all very realistic.

But there was something she said in the live stream that really resonated with me. Readers don’t need to know the little things, “like how many forms a cop needs to fill out” What they want to read is what they actually expect of a crime book, based on their knowledge from TV series and documentaries.

Nobody does this better than Angela. I work in the forensic field and have been involved in major investigations. I’ve never once thought anything she wrote was unrealistic.

Yet I have an acquaintance who could not be further removed from that life. Who has no experience of the police, or a police investigation, who is absolutely hooked on these books.

If Angela can keep both of us enthralled, and eagerly waiting for each instalment, she is definitely doing something right, very very right.

This year has been a stellar year for Crime Fiction books, but Angela Marsons still sits reading get at the top of my charts and looking at Amazon Chart today, the day after publication for this book, right at the top of most other readers must read list as well.

Pages: 426. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

Frozen Souls. Rita Herron

When a serial killer has to start leaving bodies out in the open to make room for their latest victim things are seriously wrong.

The snow storm should have hidden the body, possibly for months but every crime books favourite unnamed character, the dog walker stumbles not only across the body, but also has a close encounter with the killer.

Detective Ellie Reeves is the first to the scene and is about to start a game of cat and mouse with the killer that will revoke memories of her own childhood.

The star of this book for me is the setting. Rita Herron uses the remote township of Crooked Creek for the small town scenario really well. Everybody knows everybody, except who is the killer.

They also know where to find Ellie, and how to show their frustrations when the case isn’t going well.

So when another girl goes missing the pressure starts to mount. Will that cause her to make a mistake, or let a slip of concentration leave her exposed.

One things for sure when everybody knows the towns detective, her history, and where to find her, that means so does the killer.

And, if you are a killer who thinks a Detective might be on to you, what would you do.

Is the killer in their own community, or is it one of the strangers who have set up remote communities around the mountains at the start of the Appalachian Trail

The characters Herron uses in all of her books are believable and engaging, when they are on the right side of the law, and utterly chilling when they are not.

But, as I’ve already said, it’s the setting that brings chills, and not just because of the snow storms. This book has that psychological thriller slant that had me on the edge of my seat.

A stunning read.

Pages: 449. Publisher: Bookouture Available now

The Last Time She Died. Zoe Sharp

If the two lead characters in this book don’t end up in a TV series somebody is missing a trick

John Byron is a Senior Detective who is on long term sick leave. But that doesn’t stop his boss being in almost constant contact about an unofficial inquiry he’s carrying out.

He is attending the funeral of a Politician who was about to become a whistle blower. A man who was about to blow the lid on an elusive child abuse ring.

Blake was 15 when she disappeared, 10 years ago, just after her mother’s death. Since then her father has remarried and has step children, and has recently died in a car crash.

Nobody had seen or heard from Blake until the day of the funeral, when she accesses his house and personal files.

In fact nobody knows who she is, even when she just sits in the house and waits for the Police to find her.

The funeral is the same one Byron is attending. He is one of the first to attend the house and talk to Blake.

What follows is almost a dual inquiry. First the Police really need to establish if Blake is who she says she is, then he has she turned up now after so long.

Now Blake is doing her own investigation. She wants to know why she was given up for dead 10 years ago, and why nobody looked for a 15 year lad who just disappeared.

There are people in the town who need to worry.

What is Blake after, deadly revenge or justice.

This book has a fantastic story, and more than a bit of “will-they won’t-they” between Byron and Blake. In more than one way.

I loved the concept, I loved the characters, and thankfully there are those six words on the cover that have got me really excited.

“Blake and Byron Thrillers: Book One”

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 384. Available now

Little Bones. Patricia Gibney

For anybody that hasn’t found series of books, by Patricia Gibney, featuring DI Lottie Parker, you are missing out on one of the best Police Thriller series on the shelves.

For those of you that have, you are in for a treat with this one, I think it’s the best so far.

Lottie is called to a gruesome murder the victim has an old fashioned razor blade in her hand.

A woman receives a hand written note with three Rusty Razor Blades inside, she knows she’ll be dead within days, if not before the end of the day. Especially when she sees news of a murder on the news.

Somebody is coming for her. She knows why. She’s scared and so she should be.

Somebody is watching the Police. He wants to help, he has information, but he also suffers blackouts and doesn’t know if he’s the killer.

And all of that in the first few chapters.

Lottie and her team have their work cut out with this investigation.

You can rely on Patricia Gibney to keep it real, and this is no exception. Her books are like the written version of the real life, fly-on-the-wall, crime documentaries that follow live investigations. But her books are access all areas.

She takes you inside the head of the detectives, the criminals, the witnesses and the victims. She shows you the affect of a crime on everybody it touches, and throughout the series she has shown us the affect the work has on DI Lottie Parker and her family.

This book arrived in my inbox on a Friday morning, it went straight to the top of my to-be-read list, and was finished by Sunday, it gripped me from the first chapter. Brilliant.

Pages: 407. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now.

10 Days. Mel Sherratt

10 days. That’s how long 4 women have suffered for. Taken off the street, kept in a locked room, physically and mentally abused, and then released without explanation.

What could be worse?

This could.

Journalist Eva Farmer has interviewed all of the women after they were released. She knows what the women went through. So when she is taken she knows what to expect, almost on a day to day basis.

Eva, like the police, couldn’t make a connection between the apparently random victims, but she’s about to learn there is one, and that she, like the others, is not a random victim.

Written from two points of view, Eva’s, and her captors, the story unfolds on a daily basis, with occasional chapters being made up of the reports Eva wrote after the interviews with the earlier victims.

But this story is not just about Eva whilst she’s being held, it’s about who she was, and things she’s done in her past.

Could her captive have known all along.

Then there’s her captor. They too have an interesting back story.

I loved this book. It’s gets more complex as it unfolds. There are so many strands that knit together perfectly.

The underlying tension built up by the fact that Eva knows what happened to the first 4 women is tangible.

The demons it brings into her head as she sits in a dark room with only her own thoughts, and memories, is frightening.

A brilliant story that kept me turning the pages until way into the night.

This is a great standalone read.

Pages: 284. Publisher: Bookouture. Available now

A Cut For A Cut

DI Kate Young is a brilliant detective. She gets investigations solved. She gets on well with her team, in the main. But she’s flawed, and I mean really flawed.

Her husband was murdered and she was one of the first cops on the scene.

Now she’s having trouble letting him go, in fact she’s talking to him, and she’s beginning to get caught by others and the excuses are running out.

Is she up to carrying out a major investigation. She’s about to find out.

The first body is found dumped by a reservoir. Killed, raped and has MINE carved into her back.

The method of killing is very specific and would require training in martial arts.

When a second body turns up with the same method used to kill them, and the same message carved into them, it is obvious that they have a serial killer in the area.

Kate starts to see links to a previous case, but is that just what she wants to see, is the voice in her head influencing her decisions.

The links she wants to see will implicate a Senior Officer in the death off an underage boy at a sex party.

Her husband was investigating corruption within the Police, and connections to sex parties.

Is reality blurring with whatever Kate has going on in her own mind.

There are connections but if Kate doesn’t get things right people are going to get away with hideous crimes.

The main investigation in this book is the series of murder rapes from which the book takes its title.

The running story of Police corruption bubbles along really nicely adding a great second dimension to the book.

But it’s the third dimension that lifts this book to the levels of must be read, best seller.

Kate Young is brilliant. She is battling demons in her mind. Carol Wyer has really got into her thoughts. At times you would swear Young is talking to a person that is in the land of the living, and then you realise she’s talking to her dead husband.

At times it’s like she’s trying to reason something out, but she’s using her husbands voice as the prompt or counter argument.

That gives this book a real edge.

At times I was concerned for Kates sanity, at other times I was impressed with her deductive reasoning, all the time she is on the very edge of sanity.

Her team are brilliant. They support her throughout but even they are beginning to have concerns.

I love Carol Wyer’s writing. Her books always hold me from page one, and that in itself brings me concerns. Every time I start one of her books I wonder if it’s going to be the one to disappoint. It’s never happened yet. She is the very definition of raising the bar with each story.

This series, is her best series yet. Her best characters, her best crimes, her best stories.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

But be warned, not all of Carol’s books have a happy ending, or an easy ride for all of the characters.

Pages: 365. Publisher: Thomas & Mercer. Available now

https://amzn.to/3pCnXyX

Deadly Fallout. Rachel McLean

The last book in this Birmingham Crime series is an absolute stunner.

This whole series has been heading towards the final half a dozen chapters in this one book, and the suspense that builds up throughout this story makes that finale even better.

I only found this series about 6 weeks ago and read the first five just in time to read this one when it was published.

All six books have really good independent stories with DI Zoe Finch as the main character.

But the star of the series is the ongoing investigation into Police corruption, and the link between the corrupt officers and Gang Boss Trevor Hamm

In this story, as Finch prepares to give evidence against a corrupt ex colleague, a burglar makes a grim discovery in an empty house in a one of the posher parts of Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield

When the identity of the body is discovered Finch’s team gets pulled off the investigation

When another body is found, in one of the most deprived areas of Birmingham, Chelmsley Wood, her team are reassigned to that investigation.

Then the dominos start to drop, in lines, towards one central point where the last ones will all crash into each other with a hell of a bang.

Line one, Zoe’s teams investigation into the second murder.

Line two, the court case of the corrupt Officer

Line three, the Professional Standards Departments investigation into just how far the corruption goes.

Line four, the investigation into the death of the man found in the house.

Finally line 5, Zoe Finch’s private life. A single mom of a teenage boy, she lives in a two-up-two-down terrace house in the middle of all the student houses in Shelly Oak. She has a boyfriend she wants to be with, but because of his job in Professional Standards, can’t be, and an alcoholic mother , she doesn’t want to be with, but sometimes can’t avoid.

As the domino lines start hurtling towards the inevitable crash in the centre the book flies by so fast that the 403 pages seems to go in the blink of an eye

The book is brilliant, as are all of the others, but this is one of those series where, to quote Aristotle the “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”

Loved the book, loved the books, loved the series even more.

Pages: 403. Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing