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

Dead Secret Noelle Holton

Dead Secret was published yesterday, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to tell everybody how good it is. Now its my turn on the reviewers blog tour, I can do just that

First of all this is book 4 in a series but it can be read as a standalone without losing any of its impact.

What makes this book so good?

The characters, the storylines, everything, are so well written. They are written by a person who has working experience with the people she writes about. That makes things very, very real

She also gets the incestuous nature of crimes, about how when major crimes happen, there is only a small group involved.

There is nobody better at writing about domestic abuse and the way it affects people, the way that if it’s not addressed things can spiral, yet the victim is often the one witness who doesn’t want to come forward.

In this story there’s a murder, a kidnap, and a domestic abuse crime, all, happening at the same time, and apparently unrelated. But are they?

The three crimes are all investigated in their own way, the paths of the investigation cross at times but isn’t it just coincidence?

The main character DC Maggie Jamieson is still mentally and physically exhausted from the last case. Her guard is down and a journalist, she actually fancies, is trying to worm her way into her affections.

But the journalist is also getting information from a source within the team, not Maggie, but everybody wants to know who, and suspicion is flying.

One of the crimes leads the team to a horrific, unbelievable, conclusion.

I started the book on Saturday night and would have read it in one sitting had I started it early enough in the day. As it was I didn’t put it down till silly o’clock in the morning, and picked it up with my first cup of coffee Sunday and sat till I’d finished it. 

I mentioned that this is the fourth book in the series. I’ve already reviewed the first 3.

#1 Dead Inside. #2 Dead Wrong. #3 Dead Perfect.

They were all good, but this one, for me, is the best so far.

I said something in a tweet when I first read this book, and I stand by what I said.

This book is destined for the top of the best seller lists

Deadly Wishes & Deadly Choices. Rachel McLean

The first two books in the DI Zoe Finch Series. So, why review two books in one blog?

Because as soon as I finished Deadly Wishes I picked up Deadly Choices and just carried on reading. They are that good.

Set in Birmingham Zoe Finch is a DI in Force CID working out of Harborne Police station, and that is the first tick, because that is where all serious crimes in Birmingham are Investigated from.

In Deadly Wishes Zoe is Acting DI and is the first Senior Detective at the scene of a murder. The murder of the Assistant Chief Constable, whose retirement function she had attended earlier in the evening.

The investigation is quickly taken out of her hands, as SIO, because of internal politics, but Zoe and her team are kept as part of the investigative team.

Her team start to uncover some uncomfortable truths about the dead ACC, he’s manipulated his wife, in an overbearingly controllable way, for years. There are home improvements that have taken place, on their already expensive house which cannot be accounted for by the families finance’s. There are expensive art works that there is no indication of legitimate purchase. Worse of all there appears to be a connection between the ACC and a child abuse ring that has recently been broken.

The problem is who to trust. Zoe has at least one other Senior Officer she suspects is corrupt and has connections to a local thug who was connected to the child abuse gang.

The story is brilliant in it’s realistic simplicity. The small cast of characters which are all interconnected either by being on the right side of the law, Zoe and her team, or the wrong side of the law. Villains and maybe the odd corrupt cop.

The first book in the series had me hitting Amazon to down load book 2 the second I finished it.

In Deadly Choices Zoe, who is now a substantive DI leads the investigation into the kidnap of two children who were on a day out at Cadbury World with their mom.

Although the murder of the ACC was solved in book one, there are still some underlying issues hanging over into this story. Zoe still suspects a senior officer is corrupt and in the employ of Underworld hard man Trevor Hamm, but now she also knows that Professional Standards are onto a Senior Officer in the West Midlands Police, and in this book the investigations are going to overlap.

The missing children are the step-children of a DS working for Local CID out of Kings Norton Police Station. Step dad Ian Osman acts suspiciously from the start. But he’s a cop whose kids have gone missing, he wouldn’t be expected to sit on his hands, he would be bound to think he can do a better job of investigating wouldn’t he? Or is there another reason he’s acting like he is.

Then Zoe notices the same home improvement company that carried out the work at the ACC’s house is working on the roof at the Osman home.

Another coincidence?

These books had me reading cover to cover over a weekend, and I will admit I’m now reading book 3, and it’s just as good.

Zoe is a great character. A single mom whose 18 year old son is the result of an affair with a fellow officer she didn’t know was married. She lives in a two-up-two-down terrace house in the middle of Selly Oak, bedsit country for Birmingham University.

She’s highly strung, which is not surprising as she’s a coffee addict. Her only real vice as she’s teatotal. She plays well with people she likes, her team, but is sharp and blunt with others.

Her forte is digging deep into documents, reading correspondence, looking at bank statements and receipts, spotting inconsistencies in peoples lives.

Her team have other talents and between them they are really good at carrying out investigations into the most serious of crimes that happen across Birmingham

And the city is the other star of these stories. I’m a Brummy and I’m always surprised just how few books are set in the City. We have Angela Marsons writing the brilliant DI Kim Stone series set in the Black Country, but never make the mistake of thinking Birmingham and the Black Country are the same place.

Just like Angela Marsons, Rachel McLean uses her knowledge of the local area to bring the books to life. Setting the stories in real locations, which are just right for each story.

Not just using places that are recognisable, but places where realistically that part of the story fits.

She catches the nuances of the characters perfectly. More ticks in the boxes for great reading.

As far as I can see there are 6 books in this series. I honestly can’t see me reading anything else until I’ve read them all.

Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing. Pages: Both Books just over 400 each. Available now

Last Place You Look. Louisa Scarr

Wow. Well this one had me hooked from start to finish.

A young single woman having an affair with a married man. A boringly normal man, but a lovely man, who is about to leave his with.

The young woman is Detective Constable Freya West. She has just been attached to work with Grumpy Sergeant, Robin Butler

Her first job is to meet Butler at an address where they have to tell a wife that her husband has died in a hotel room, the victim of an erotic auto-asphyxiation that went wrong.

But during the visit Freya realises that the dead man is the man she was having an affair with, Jonathan, and she’s convinced that there is no way he would have died like that.

Her first mistake is she doesn’t tell Butler, even when it becomes evident that he was having an affair and the Sergeant is actively looking for his mistress.

Her second mistake is stealing a vital bit of evidence before it’s found by her colleagues.

But she’s not the only one with problems. Butlers sister and twin sons were killed in a car crash years ago, and soon after his release, so was the driver of the car which killed them, in another crash. Now the second “accident” is being looked at again, and Freya has been asked to go behind Butlers back to re-examine the case.

Butler is already coming apart at the seams as he struggles with memories of his sister and the twins. He is perpetually grumpy, perpetually single, with the occasional one night stand or friend with benefits relationships. He’s scruffy and just the wrong side of unhygienic, and although it’s not affecting his work, it’s affecting the people he works with.

Meanwhile Jonathan’s death is highlighted as suspicious after all. People involved as witnesses are finding their story unravel. Freya’s tenacity means Butler becomes increasingly more concerned that he was murdered, but his main suspect is the missing girlfriend.

This is a cracking story. If we were allowed to fly long haul this year, this would be the book I’d recommend for a long flight, the time would pass in the blink of an eye.

The story has everything, great characters, a marvellous plot, and an intrigue that kept me second guessing all the way to the reveal.

That one innocent lie, Freya telling Butler she knows the victim, but only as a distant acquaintance, is the first roll of a small snowball in the snow. But as the story continues the snowball keeps getting rolled and it’s getting big. Meanwhile Butler has his own snowball rolling and the two are about to come together.

I loved this book and would recommend it to any crime fiction fan

Pages: 306. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Release date: 8th April 2021

E

The House of Killers. Samantha Lee Howe

Every now and then a book comes along and ticks all my boxes. This is one of those books.

Espionage and Crime Thrillers are my favourite genres of books, tick, tick

Robert Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy and Stig Larsons Millennium trilogy, are two of my favourite series with two of my favourite characters. Neva in The House Of Killers is an amalgamation of Bourne and Salander, Tick, tick

A cracking, believable story that keeps me hooked from start to finish. Tick, tick, tick.

Neva is a Bourne in reverse. She’s an accomplished assassin who feels no empathy for her victims, in fact she is void of any emotions, just like Larson’s Salander. But, something is happening to her, flashback memories to when she was a child. Flashbacks to being abused and trained in a merciless brutal way start to enter her mind, along with the occasional memory of innocent times before she was taken to “The House” to be trained by The Network

Meanwhile Michael Kensington is an MI5 agent who works for a shadowy department that is officially called the Archive Taskforce. A team that on the surface looks at cold cases, but whose main duty is to investigate murders that could be politically motivated assassinations.

Michael has been building a case against one assassin that he is convinced is responsible for a lot of the murders that he has in his system. A clinical killer that specialises in using a very sharp blade. But in recent kills the killer has uncharacteristically got a bit careless, has he found a chink, can he identify the killer.

When Neva kills, “retires” another assassin who works for the “Network” it triggers something inside her, when will it be her turn?

When she cracks and kills another member of The Network, of her own volition, she has to disappear, and she knows she needs help.

A chance meeting between Neva and Michael puts him on her track, but why doesn’t he tell the Archieve team everything, and why does he let her under his skin.

What follows is a very unlikely, but thoroughly believable hook up of the two main characters, but what a dance. Neither fully trusts the other, contact is lost and established at Neva’s behest, but still he trusts her, and in doing so puts his career on the line

This book is stunning. It’s that nugget of gold you spend hour panning a river for, the one that comes along every now and then. The last time I was this excited about finding a new author it was Tom Clancy.

The book had me hooked from the start. The characters are great, Neva is believable, but even in her coldest murderous moments there is something that attracts me to her as a character.

Michael is a typical security service Investigator, more Morse than Bond, reserved, lives alone, does his job, goes home. Just your everyday person doing a police job for a government agency. The perfect foil for Neva’s vicious uncaring character.

This story flew by. The plot runs at a prolific speed and the ending is one I just did not see coming. Usually this would mean the author had thrown in something that would be unrealistic in the plot, but not in this case. There’s a slow build up to it that is cleverly hidden in the plot, and when it manifested itself in the last couple of chapters I could see where it had come from, and I loved the fact that I had been caught by surprise by a brilliant twist.

2021 has given me some of the best books I’ve read for years, and this one is right at the top of the list.

Pages: 432. Publisher: One More Chapter Publishing Date 24th June 2021

A Serial Killers Wife. Alice Hunter

Beth has it all, a lovely daughter, Poppy; a loving husband, Tom; and the perfect village life where she runs her own coffee shop.

Then one day Tom’s late from work and by the time he gets home two police officers are waiting to talk to him. Taking him to the station he doesn’t return till late and he tells his wife he’ll explain everything the next day after work. But he doesn’t get the chance because he’s arrested, for the suspected murder of his ex girlfriend 8 years ago.

Life begins to unravel. She knows Tom likes to be a bit dominant in the bedroom but he’s no killer………is he

Dealing with the aftermath of Toms arrest in the village, the gossipy wives, the other kids at Poppy’s school, and the influx of journalists is making her life unbearable.

But not as unbearable as the elements of doubt that start to creep into her thoughts.

Written in the first person, from both Beth and Toms point of view, and occasionally a mystery 3rd person, this book is addictive.

The story isn’t as simple as it sounds, but to go any deeper would mean too many spoilers.

Beth is the kind of character that you can’t help but have empathy and sympathy for. Tom is a character you won’t trust from the start.

And who is the third person

Alice Hunter is great at building tension in the way she writes, even when the story is apparently taking a bit of a breather there is an underlying fizz of electricity.

Don’t get me wrong, this book never really takes its foot of the accelerator, and it goes no where near the brake, it just cruises along at just the right speed all the way through.

I really enjoyed this one.

Pages: 400. Publisher: Avon. Publishing Date: 27th May 2021

Silent Voices. Patricia Gibney

It starts with a flashback to a boy getting pushed into a quarry lake 9 years ago.

From there the pace of this book is relentless. The first murder victim is found with her face contorted in agony, she’s been poisoned. A very old fashioned way of murdering somebody, but as a statement, because of the obvious pain of the victim, it is horrific.

But, there’s more to follow. Two more, seemingly unrelated victims killed in the same way.

Detective Inspector Lottie Parker and her team take on the latest series of murders to hit Ragmullin, the small Midlands City in Ireland.

Coincidentally, Lottie’s fiancé, who is also her DS, Boyd comes across a teenage girl who is having problems with her bike. Being the Good Samaritan he helps her sort it out, only to find the girl is inexplicably linked to one of the murder victims.

As the investigation progresses the seemingly unrelated victims start to be connected, and there appears to be a spurious link to the death of a boy 9 years earlier in a quarry.

Running alongside the story of the crimes is the story of Parker’s pending nuptials to Boyd, but as we find out in the in the prologue Boyd doesn’t turn up. The wedding is several, days after the first murder, and when he doesn’t turn up Lottie finds a note which suggests he’s on an errand of mercy that may be linked to the crimes they are in the middle of investigating

Was that act of being a Good Samaritan Boyd’s ultimate undoing.

Will the Crimes get Solved

Will there ever be a marriage

Will Lottie Parker ever get a break and find some semblance of happiness in her life.

I love Patricia Gibney’s books. I can’t believe this is book 9 in the series, they have all been brilliant.

The thing that elevates her books is the multiple strands she manages to weave into each storyline. The crimes alone are complex without being confusing. The personal lives of victims, perpetrators, and witness, along with the people who invariably orbit an investigation, are so true to life and easily believable they make for a fantastic read.

The life of Lottie’s team, and her family are always incorporated into the plot with a great effect.

Most of all Lottie herself. What a character. I can’t believe that Gibney has invented this detective without knowing somebody, or some people, that she has amalgamated to create Detective Inspector Lottie Parker. In fact I won’t be at all surprised if there’s not a lot of Patricia in Lottie.

She has really got into the head of a successful DI. The sacrifices made at the expense of her family, although she would argue not; the bluntness of character, although she would say not, but most of all the loyalty she shows to those she cares for.

This book is a great addition to what is already one of the very best crime series being written today. And the good news, I recently read that Patricia Gibney has just signed up to, write more books in the series.

Pages: 460. Publisher: Bookouture. Published: Today.

An Eye For An Eye. Carol Wyer

Everybody say hello to my new favourite Detective.

DI Kate Young works for Staffordshire Police, and at the start of the book she’s on enforced leave due to mental stresses brought on by recent investigations, and the death of her husband.

So why would the force bring her back to take on a really nasty, high pressure case.

Is it because they want her to fail, and do they want her to fail because they want to discredit her and get rid of her for once and for all; or is there something more sinister going on.

The case she’s brought back for ticks all the boxes that play with even the hardest of cops heads. Murder, sex, drugs, all involving vulnerable young people.

The investigation would be hard enough for a fit Kate, but one who is suffering with PTSD, one who is still grieving, one who really shouldn’t be back at work, what chance has she got of solving it.

Some people, mainly her closest team, are on her side, some of the senior officers are keeping her at arms length, not wanting to be tainted by what must be her ultimate failure.

Carol is on familiar ground basing her crimes in the Staffordshire area, but where she found the storyline for this book I’ll never know. You can only guess at what runs through an authors mind when they are plotting things like this. Her skill is taking it right to the edge but still keeping it firmly in realms of the realistic.

The other thing you can guarantee with Carol Wyer is good characters, and Kate Young is her best yet. Flawed and vulnerable, whilst still being strong and intuitive. She is as close, in character, as I’ve come across in fiction, to some of the real SIOs I’ve met.

Then there are the recurring characters she has running through a series, there’s always one that brings that bit of quirkiness, and in this series she’s found a beaut, the flamboyant Ervin Saunders, Head of Forensics, who brings that little bit of lightness that every serious book needs.

It’s a brave author that brings to an end, or puts on hold a hugely successful series, to start another.

But, as they say, fortune favours the brave, and this book has me hooked into the series from the start, I can only hope Kate, and Ervin, and the team that come with them, are here for a long run

This book is up there with the best I’ve read, and left me desperate for the next instalment of the series.

An absolute cracking story that announces the start of a series that is destined for the best seller lists.

Pages: 426. Publisher: Thomas and Mercer. Available now

The Silent Suspect. Nell Pattison

The opening chapters in this book contained the best narrative of a house fire, from a civilian witness point of view, I have ever read.

Paige Northwood is a hearing British Sign Language interpreter. When she gets a video call from a client, who is frantically signing at her to phone the Fire Service, because his house is on fire and his wife is missing, she calls the brigade and runs around the corner to where the fire is taking place.

Paige works a Deaf Social worker Sasha, and helps her with clients. It’s one of these clients who’s house is on fire

Lucas is nowhere to be seen when Paige arrives, but is soon pulled out of the building by fire crews, he’s alive but as he sits on the back of an ambulance his wife is pulled out dead.

Hours later Lucas is charged with her murder. Sasha and Paige can’t believe he did it and start to carry out their own investigations.

What follows is amateur sleuthing at its best. Showing a real confirmation bias towards proving Lucas innocent they blunder their way along, and in Paige’s case, from one disaster to another, in a desperate attempt to find out who really killed Lucas wife.

As they start to uncover the truth about what Lucas is really like Paige starts to have doubts.

Running alongside the main story are short flashback chapters that cover the last few hours before the fire

The two main threads intertwine, just as the reader is led down one thread by Paige’s investigation, they are diverted by something that happened just hours before the fire.

This is a great story with great characters.

Pattison uses italics when one of the characters is signing, and somehow manages to get real emotion into the conversations.

Unlike many modern fiction books where murder follows murder she has kept it real with the one main crime, but of course there are a lot of less serious crimes orbiting it. People just don’t get murdered for no reason, most of the time.

I’ve said before how I love a book that gets me researching, and this one did just that. How many of us have given any thought to how deaf people use mobile phones, apart from texting and using the internet.

I got the sneaky feeling that this wasn’t the first book in the series when I was reading it, but I waited till the end to check. It’s book 3 in the Paige Northwood series.

I have to say it reads great as a standalone, but I’m definitely going back to read the first two.

I loved this book for the stubborn, yet naive, way Paige got involved. It was almost like going back to my childhood reading when The Hardy Brothers stumbled across some injustice they wanted to right.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a very grown up book that deals with real emotions in a modern world, there’s even a touch of romance, and do you know what, I enjoyed it.

Pages: 400. Publisher: Avon. Publishing date: April 29th 2021

Who Took Eden Mulligan. Sharon Dempsey

Who took Eden Mulligan could easily be Who Is Eden Mulligan.

This is a belter of a crime novel that is so much more than just a murder investigation.

The book starts with a bloodied and injured young woman staggering into a Police Station, in Northern Ireland, and saying that “they’re all dead” and confessing to killing them before she passes out

The “them” she’s talking about are her 4 best friends and the police quickly find them all in a remote house. 3 are dead, stabbed to death and posed on a bed, the other is clinging to life.

Painted on the wall is a message. Who Took Eden Mulligan

That is where this story can take a massive turn that it couldn’t do if it was set anywhere else in the U.K.

Eden Mulligan went missing from her Belfast home during the troubles.

Since the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement most of us have forgotten what the people of the Country went through, but this book looks at the way the troubles still effect the people of Belfast and the small towns around it

Chief Inspector Danny Stowe is working on cold cases, looking at unsolved murders. When the woman staggers into the Police Station Danny is asked to lead the murder investigation, it’s his way back into Major Investigations. On the same day his best friend from University visits him, and he ropes her in to help the investigation

Dr Rose Lainey is only home for her mothers funeral. She works in England as a Criminal Psychologist and at first is loath to help, but she needs answers herself, especially when they find out who Eden Mulligan, was and when she went missing.

Mulligan was a young attractive woman bringing up her 5 children alone in Belfast whilst her husband worked in England.

Lainey was from the same area, The Markets, and her mother brought up her family alone after her husband was killed. Lainey always thought her mother was part of the paramilitaries, sneaking out at night and being secretive. Lainey had run away from home after her last college exam, away from what she saw as an overbearing mother, and had never returned until she had a phone call to say her mother had died.

Mulligans disappearance was never solved, in fact the police never really took it seriously.

This story looks at The Disappeared of Northern Ireland. People that went missing during the troubles. People taken off the streets by paramilitary snatch squads, taken across the border, tortured and killed. People who’s bodies were never found.

It looks at the effects the troubles are still having on families today, as well as the sectarian violence that was taking place till only a few years ago.

This book could not have been set anywhere else in the U.K.

I’m ashamed to say I’m old enough to know more about the troubles than I did before I started reading this book. I disappeared down a Google worm hole for hours reading about “The Disappeared”

The relationships between Lainey and her estranged family, and her friendship with Stowe, is a brilliant sub plot. In fact both the lead characters in this book have a great story to tell and hopefully there will be more to follow.

Pages: 368. Publisher: Avon. Available: August 2021