Last Night Helen Phifer

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Well here’s something you don’t come across very often, a prequel to a series. This is the book that tells the story of Lucy Harwin’s first case as a Detective Inspector, and what a gruesome one it is to cut your teeth on as the Senior Investigating Officer.

When a bunch of 13 year olds decide to go ghost hunting in a derelict church they get more than they bargained for. A woman is hanging upside down, on a crude crucifix made from burnt wood, with her throat cut.

Newley promoted Detective Inspector Lucy Harwin is sent to the scene as the duty SIO and meets up with her, DS Mattie Jackson.

It’s every Police Officers worst scenario, a brutal murder with no clues to work on, and a newly promoted Lucy finds it particularly frustrating. Her team are chasing around trying to identify the body and find any sort of evidence when a second body is found.

This second body brings with it another nightmare for every Police Officer and puts Lucy under even more pressure.

As the body count rises other factors start to lead Lucy and the team down some lines of enquiry that not everybody is comfortable with.

The first time I read one of Helen Phifer’s books I was taken aback by the way she writes, using the correct procedures and terminology, keeping the pace of the book up all the way through. Right up to the very end I was captivated by the pace of the story.

There’s more to her writing than that though. The stories are great, and just like the others this one kept me engrossed from start to finish.

From the first chapter I was sucked into a great scenario. Helen has chosen to use a once prosperous English seaside resort as her setting. I have recently worked in a couple of these towns and didn’t realise how much they had become run down. How they had become great places to set crime stories.

I would usually comment on whether a new book, in an already established series, could be read as a stand-alone.

Well, as this is a prequel the answer is obviously yes.

So, I’ll comment on whether people already reading the series will be disappointed by Helen going back to the start of Lucy Harwin’s career as a DI.

No, they most certainly won’t. What a great tool for giving us more of the back story to some of the key characters in the series, especially Lucy.

And what a tool for getting new readers hooked on a series that is already out there, because if this is the first DI Luck Harwin book you read, I can guarantee you will read the rest of the series and wait for the next instalment as eagerly as me.

Follow the links below for my reviews of the previous DI Lucy Harwin novels

https://nigeladamsbookworm.com/category/the-lost-children/

https://nigeladamsbookworm.com/2017/10/19/dying-breath-helen-phifer/

 

Last Breath Published by Bookouture on November 16th 2018, available to pre-order on Amazon now

Truth and Lies. Caroline Mitchell

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Straight off, I loved this book.

Take a sprinkling of Fred and Rose West and add a pinch of Myra Hindley and there you have the main villain in this book.

Lillian Grimes is in prison for being one half of a husband and wife team that went from swinging to killing. Carrying out deprived sex attacks and killing their victims after luring them into their home. The victims were buried in the garden, under the cellar floor, and in the walls.

Lillian’s husband killed himself in prison but had already told police there were three other victims. He named them but didn’t say where they were buried.

Now Lillian is using that to her advantage. She wants to drip the information to detectives, but she has a price.

DI Amy Winter is a pocket rocket of a detective. At 5”2 she is not very tall but don’t ever underestimate her.

Amy’s dad was one of the cops who put Lillian in prison, his recent death has left a hole, but she is determined to carry on.

When Lillian gets in touch and says she will only deal with Amy, and will take her to the first burial site, Amy has no idea of the effect it’s going to have on her.

As Lillian plays her mind games a young girl is kidnapped. Amy and her team should be concentrating on the kidnapping, but Amy’s head is with the missing bodies and the revelations Lillian keeps making.

This book is tremendous. I can’t remember a book ever having me hooked so quickly, and kept me hooked so thoroughly until the very last page.

Caroline Mitchell is an ex-Detective and her experience always shines through in the reality of her books; but this book has taken it to another level.

The tension is brilliant. The inter-weaving of the plot lines make the story play out wonderfully.

The reference to Fred and Rose, and Myra Hindley, at the beginning of this blog are not waffle. The crimes Lillian has been convicted of are Fred and Rose’s crimes, or bloody close to them. The fact that Hindley also tried to curry favour by taking the police to the moors to show where the bodies of some of the victims were buried, is also very reminiscent of Lillian’s behaviour.

But there was something else that Rose West and Myra Hindley had in common, and so has Lillian.

What an utterly compelling read. One that had me doing my own research to see if my thoughts were right. Just my kind of book.

Oh, and there’s a twist right at the end. Please let there be a sequel. I want to know what happens next.

Pages: 348

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publishing Date: 30th August 2018.

The Birthday. Carol Wyer

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2 years after she went missing the body of Ava Sawyer is found buried in the grounds of the Garden Centre she disappeared from during a birthday party.

DI Natalie Wood and her small team are tasked with finding answers the original team to investigate the disappearance didn’t.

But this is no ordinary missing persons/murder investigation. Now that the body has been found it acts as a catalyst for more crimes. More of the girls from the party start  to get killed and are left posed in public places.

The investigation very much becomes a race against time.

The team have to find a killer. There are so many suspects, each one looking like they could be the killer, but each of them ruled out as suspects.

Have the team missed the killer?

Natalie already blames herself for one child abduction and murder case, she worked on, being tragically unsuccessful. She wasn’t the boss on that investigation, but she is on this one.

Has she learnt from others mistakes?

The last case affected her mentally and emotionally. Can she hold it together through this case?

The characters in this book are just what you would expect to find in any police team. DI Wood is struggling to balance her work and personal life. How can she try to keep her marriage going and still conduct such a high profile and emotional case.

Her team are made up of a mix of characters who it are easy to associate with and I’m sure we will get to know as the series progresses. There are friendships and there is conflict, just like the real world.

The best thing about this story is the realism. Carol Wyer hits so many nails on the head with the observations she makes.

She brings to life the frustrations of a real investigation.

The amount of facts that come flooding in and need sorting.

Deciding on what takes priority, and the worry that the decision was wrong.

When is it right to send your team home for rest, when every minute is so vital and may literally mean the difference between life and death.

There is one passage in the book when Natalie is struck by the normality of ongoing life after a traumatic incident.

In my career the thing that always used to get into my head was the disrupted normality. A terrible fire in a bedroom that had claimed lives, yet breakfast places set in the unaffected kitchen downstairs. School coats, which would never be worn again, hanging over the backs of chairs.

Not many authors consider this, and even less describe the feelings and emotions so well. It is only a small passage in the book, but it shows the consideration that has been put into it.

This is the first book in a new series. I think it’s going to be stunning.

Pages: 316

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 27th September 2018.

Her Final Hour Carla Kovach

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Straight off I’m going to say this is one of my Books of the Year.

I was hooked from the first chapter.

In 1993 a girl is drugged and raped.

In the present day a woman is struggling to escape an abusive marriage when she is killed.

DI Gina Harte has just landed after a few days away on holiday and is called in to lead the investigation into the death.

Gina is a good DI with a proven tack history and is well respected amongst her colleagues. What they don’t know is that she was in an abusive marriage for years, and this investigation is going to resurrect memories and take her to a really dark place.

The murder is almost perfect, and it quickly becomes apparent that the team are looking for somebody who is forensically aware and is going to be difficult to identify.

What is the connection to the rape in the prologue, that would be too much of a spoiler, but it’s just one of the strands of this plot that weaves a great story.

Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, not everybody is living in a happy-ever-after way.

The story also shows the consequences of actions taken by the Police, and the perceptions some people have of them on a personal basis.

Gina manages to put herself in mortal danger, as well as the emotional turmoil she is in as she remembers her late husband.

Her emotions lead this to become a very personal investigation and she will have to dig deep to come out of the investigation with her mind and body intact.

This story made me think. There is something about the crime, and the perpetrator, or is it perpetrators, (you’ll have to read it to find out) that is strikingly obvious, but that I’ve never read about or considered before.

Carla Kovach has come up with an original plot with one hell of a twist at the end.

I didn’t see it coming but it gave me one of those “Of Course. That makes perfect sense” moments

The story starts of fast and just keeps going. I have used the phrase, “ I couldn’t put it down” before, and usually it just means I read it in a few sittings over a couple of days. This one I really couldn’t put down. If I didn’t have to sleep it would have been a one sitting read.

This is the second book in the Gina Harte series. Below is a link to my review of the first The Next Girl

https://nigeladamsbookworm.com/2018/04/04/the-next-girl-carla-kovach/

 

Her Final Hour

Pages: 316

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing date: 23rd August 2018.

Perfect Dead Jackie Baldwin

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When this book came up for review I liked the look of the blurb that went along with it. It was the second in the DI Frank Farrell series, so naturally I downloaded the first in the series and read that first. Thank God I did, I have discovered a great new Police Crime Series.

Frank Farrell is a great character for a book. An ex-priest who leaves the proesthood because he broke the sacrament of the confessional, and helped the police catch a murderer. It was only natural that once out of the Church he would become a cop, and so he started a distinguished career in the Big City and made his way up to DI.

Then he moved back to his hometown of Dumfries, which is where we find him in this series.

I won’t go on about book 1 Dead Man’s Prayer, take it from me it’s a fantastic read, because this blog is about Perfect Dead, which is just as good if not better.

Perfect Dead sees the MIT in Dumfries overwhelmed with 4 cases, murders, missing persons and art forgery, in the small town of Kirkcudbright.

Farrell is one of 2 DI’s tasked with breaking the cases along with his childhood friend DCI Lind, and their small band of Detectives.

The cases all seem to be centred around a small community of artists which provide a great cast of characters for the story. Each one is wonderfully written, and the way they weave into the story is fascinating.

This story is multi-layered and takes loads of twists, but all the time it stays within the realms of possibility.

Jackie Baldwin has created a wonderful set of characters. DI Farrell is still conflicted between his faith and his job, and when it comes to personal relationships he really does struggle. His main sidekick is DC Mhairi McCleod, a young woman that had, until Farrell arrived in her nick, built up a reputation as a party girl, but he sees the potential and relies on her for a lot of his work.

There are many others, all with great side stories, in the cast of police characters. Just as much effort is put into the criminals, with great effect.

The crimes in this book are perfectly written and they all add to the story, but what is the link. I didn’t work it out until the last chapters.

And talking of the last chapters, what a climax to a book.

I started this review saying I read the first book in the series before I reviewed Perfect Dead. That’s because I like to read books in chronological order. But this can be read as a stand-alone-novel, and a brilliant story it is.

Jackie Baldwin is a new author to me, but has gone straight onto the must read list.

 

Publisher: Killer Reads, Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 15th June 2018

Available to pre-order for the Kindle

The Perfect Silence. Helen Fields.

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Every now and again a book come along and stops me in my tracks. Perfect Silence is one of only a handful to have done this in 40 odd years of reading psychological thrillers.

The book starts with a woman crawling along a country lane. Badly injured having been viciously abused by her kidnapper, who has left her to die slowly, and alone, with no chance of anybody finding her in time to save her.

When she is found the Edinburgh Major Investigation Team is tasked with finding the killer.

DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach make a great team. She is young and ambitious but a great officer, he is the French transferee from Interpol who has adopted Scotland as his homeland, even if it is somewhat reluctantly.

Together with their team they start the investigation into the murder of the woman but quickly realise that another woman has been taken. From then on it becomes a race against time as the kidnapper kills the women before taking the next victim. Every time they take a new victim they leave behind their uniquely grotesque calling card.

But how many women will go missing and be killed before Ava and her team catch the person responsible.

If that’s not bad enough somebody is attacking the drug fuelled vagrants across the City, and Ava is desperately trying to protect them as well as catch their attackers. This investigation leads her into a conflict it doesn’t look like she can win.

Will this distract her and her team from finding the killer of the women.

This book had me hooked from page one. By the end of the book I was breathless.

Helen Fields has a way of writing that keeps the reader turning the page. A lot of authors can do that. But she can do something not very many can. There are chapters in this book where the very last sentence made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in horror. Not the grislily sort of horror, the psychological sort. Wow

Last year I was lucky enough to read Perfect Remains by Helen Fields, but because it was part of a judging system for a literature prize, I wasn’t able to review it on my blog. It was one of the best books I’ve read.

Well I can shout from the roof tops about this one. It’s the best book I’ve read this year, and right up there in the list of the best books I’ve ever read.

Pages: 432

Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 23rd August 2018

Available to pre-order on Amazon

Tell Me A Secret Samantha Hayes

Tell Me A Secret    Samantha Hayes

Earlier this year I reviewed The Reunion by Samantha Hayes, and I said “I was figuratively peeping between my fingers when I read parts of it”. Well its happened again.

Samantha really knows how to pick at those parts of the mind that hold the fear factor.

When a young girl catches her dad having sex, with the lodger, it’s bad enough. When her Mother finds out and goes crazy, it’s about as bad as it gets; but when her dad hangs himself and blames her, in his suicide note, because she caught him and the lodger, her life is damaged beyond recovery. That is all in the first few pages. Wow what a start to a book.

In the following chapters we meet Lorna, a Counsellor with an anal routine, who is really trying to forget one of the men in her life. Until she decides to make contact with him through a on line dating service.

That’s when things really start to go to wrong.

Lorna knows it’s impossible, after all the dead can’t talk, but when a dead person starts to message her things take another twist.

I don’t want to say anymore, because I don’t want to give anything away.

If you love psychological thrillers you will love this book.

I wasn’t just peeping through my fingers at this book, I was hiding behind the sofa. What a great read.

The bit below here is an extract from Samantha Hayes biography and it gives a bit of a clue as to why she writes such good books.

“Samantha Hayes grew up in Warwickshire, left school at sixteen, avoided university and took jobs ranging from private detective to barmaid to fruit picker and factory worker. She lived on a kibbutz, and spent time living in Australia and the USA, before finally becoming a crime-writer.”

She’s lived a bit, and it shows.

 

Pages: 361

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now