The Binding Room. Nadine Matheson

This book is so much more than a crime novel.

Nadine Matheson has taken a cracking crime story and wrapped a clever plot full of politics around it.

The politics of race, family feuds, political interference and so much more.

A Pastor is murdered in his Church.

The SIO, DI Anjeclica Henley is looking around the scene when she finds a small locked room with the body of a young, white, man bound to a bed. Everybody thinks he’s dead until the Pathologist arrives and finds he’s alive.

The family of the Pastor have an overinflated view of his importance, and perceived celebrity.

The young man is unidentified.

The Pastors wife is infuriated by the fact that the Police appear to be putting more effort into identifying the man from the locked room, than into the murder of her “celebrity” husband.

The wife involves the local MP who sees an opportunity to attack the already stretched Police force, accusing them of racism.

What she doesn’t realise is that DI Henley is SIO and that she is Black. In fact by “rattling the cage” and insisting on a press conference she has the opposite effect.

Suddenly the Pastor has gone from murder victim to possible abuser, with is past life being dragged up by police and press.

All the time another person is being held captive, their bones are being broken, they are being denied food and drink. Is it too late for her to be saved.

A great read, as much for the personal and professional struggles some of the characters go through, as for the crime itself.

Pages: 512. Publisher: HQ Release date: 7th July 2022

The Skin Code. Stephen Williams

The cover says “An absolutely gripping crime thriller with an astonishing twist”. Well in my opinion, even that is understating what to expect.

This is an absolute cracker of a book, which I am hoping is the introduction to a new series.

I have to admit the first chapter almost left me cold. A woman is attacked by a gang in an alley in London. She’s saved by, what I mistakenly thought was going to be another vigilante. I am so glad I continued past those first few pages.

The woman who does the saving is Raine. A no nonsense ex-Police Officer, who is now a private detective, and she’s not doing vigilante work, she’s following the woman who was attacked. Her parents had reported her missing, but because she’s over 18 the Police aren’t concerned, so the parents have hire Raine, not to bring her home, just to see if she is ok, and find out what she’s doing.

Meanwhile a friend of Reine, and still a serving Police Officer, Mary Hume is the DI investigating a gruesome murder.

Hume and her DC Echo have been assigned the case when a man is found in his flat. He has been killed and mutilated. The mutilation came when he was still alive and in a conscious, but paralysed state, owing to a well mixed drug cocktail.

Londons Met Police are under staffed and some low level parts of investigations are outsourced. Hume hires Raine to look into the partner of the dead man.

In return Raine asks for information on Heather, the girl in the alley, who she has lost track of.

When Heather is murdered, that investigation starts to take a nasty twist.

But not as nasty as Humes murder investigation, because the bodies are starting to stack up.

And so begins one of, if not the best book, I’ve read this year.

This is a stunner.

Raine and Hume take equal billing as lead characters and they are fantastic. Echo the DC is just as good, and unique in his life style, all three are compelling to read about.

The story has a drug theme running throughout, and Williams describes it perfectly as the “closed circuit of hopelessness”

Raine is a great character. Living on a houseboat, a cafe connoisseur, a person who is on “extended leave” from the Police, a bit off-the-wall in her approach to life, brilliant.

Hume, a normal happily married middle age woman, who just happens to be good at her job, and just happens to have a sharpe sense of humour, brilliant.

The story is set in and around the London drug scene. Again brilliant.

The end of the book does carry a nice twist. Right there, in the last two paragraphs, of the last chapter, there is a plot twist that really makes me think their will be at least a sequel, but I’m hoping for many more in a long series.

Publisher: Joffe. Pages: 330. Publishing date: 9th June 2022

When The Night Ends. M.J Lee

As a Coroner’s Officer DI Ridpath has different legal powers under the Coroners legislation.

In remission from Cancer, and on what some people see as light-duties, Ridpath is still attached to one of Greater Manchester Police’s Major Investigation Teams, whilst working for the Coroner.

So when an Inquiry is formed to look into a death in a custody cell everybody, including the Coroner thinks Ridpath might want to take a back seat, but he’s happy there is no conflict of interest and insists on carrying out investigations in preparation for the inquest .

But then the questions start. Why was the Post Mortem carried out so quickly, why was the body cremated before the toxicology results came back. Why were so many important witnesses ignored by the investigation carried out by the IPC, and why are some of those witnesses dying.

The Custody Sergeant on the night of the death was a good man, every copper liked him. He’s been cleared by two internal investigations of any wrong doing.

It’s a step too far for most of Ridpath’s colleagues in the MIT, another investigation of a good cop who has been left festering at a desk for three years.

I don’t know why this series flies under so many peoples radar. I often get asked who my favourite authors are and M.J Lee is always one of those I mention, which is usually followed by the answer, “Oh, I’ll look him up”

This is a great series. Ridpath is one of the great fictional Police Officers being written today.

His ongoing story, the moralistic conflicts he finds himself in are great reads

The fact he works to different legislation whilst also having a Police Warrant Card, gives murder and suspicious death investigations a different angle from most Police procedurals.

This is a great addition to a great series.

Pages: 403. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date: 9th June 2022

Six Graves. Angela Marsons

In the blink of an eye we’re at book 16

You would think that by now the series would be running out of steam, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The prologue hooked me in a way no other start to a book ever has.

In places the story had me holding my breath till I was turning blue.

And the last page left me Gob Smacked and reaching for a glass of Jack Daniels.

A family dead. Mom, Dad, and two children all shot and the mother is still holding the gun.

Surely this is a straight forward murder suicide.

DI Kim Stone’s not sure. As she starts to dig into the family history she starts to uncover secrets. Helen, the mother has history of depression., but is that enough to tip her over the edge.

The team dig deeper and the clues start to surface, but it’s not just clues which are surfacing, so is a face from Kim’s past.

She receives a threat to her life. Typically she shrugs it of but this one’s serious and it has her rattled. Rattled enough to send Barney away on a holiday for his safety.

As she continues to lead the team looking at the death of the family a psychopath that is getting close, metaphorically and physically.

I challenge anybody not to read this in one sitting. It’s a book that brings a new meaning to the word tense, there was no way I could put it down

Angela Marsons has a way of writing that has always engaged with me. One of the things that her writing has is a realism that I can associate with.

It’s not just that her stories are based where I live, it’s not just the fact the characters are so realistic. It’s the empathy I have with Kim Stone.

That empathy really hit home in this book.

In all the crime scenes I attended, in all the fires I investigate, there has only ever been one thing that got to me. It was the normality of the scene. The rooms that hadn’t been affected. The rooms where it looked like the people who lived there were about to walk in and start their day.

In this book Angela Marsons captures that through Kim Stone better than anybody has captured it before.

The bar just got raised again.

Pages: 425. Audio book length: 8:33. Publisher: Bookouture Available now.

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Playing With Fire. Mary Burton (Novella)

Where do I start with this review.

I loved the book, it kept me hooked, but a big part of me was irritated.

I’m a retired Fire Officer, in fact I was, and still am Fire Investigator, and for that reason I was able to spot the technical inaccuracies in this book.

That would usually put me off but the story just kept me hooked.

The two main characters, Darcy the journalist, and Gannon, the Fire Investigator who had retired following the “death” of his nemesis Nero in a fire in the big City.

Gannon was never convinced the body that had been found was the man who had started the fires, and killed the people. He was too intelligent and too neat to have been killed by one of his own fires.

Gannon quit his job after that fire and retired to a quiet town to run a motorcycle repair shop.

A year after Nero’s reported death Darcy receives a tip off that he wasn’t the body found in the fire, and that an innocent man has been framed for his crimes.

She’s got enough evidence to convince her editor to have a second look, but she is going to need to talk to Gannon, a man who is notorious for his hatred of the press.

Coincidentally Gannon has moved to Darcy’s home town and she goes to work in the family bar as she goes undercover in an attempt to get close to him.

Meanwhile the town has started to suffer a series of fires which are reminiscent of Neros. Is it him, or is there a copy cat. Either way they’re goading Gannon.

What follows the story of Darcy and Gannon learning to like each other and investigate the fires that are taking place now. But Darcy keeps getting a crisis of confidence. The one man who fits all the tags to be Nero is Gannon.

Is she thinking straight, in fact is she thinking with the right part of her anatomy when it comes to him.

Honestly the story is so good it outweighs the inaccuracies.

Print length 205 pages. Publisher: HQ Digital. Available now.

Hot House. Lisa Towles

For some reason this book reminded me of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series.

The location, the settings and although the main character is a civilian woman, and the writing style all got me thinking of Connelly and Bosch.

Mari Ellwyn, ex CIA, now part time Private Investigator, and Art Gallery owner is the main character

She has been employed to look at who is blackmailing a family friend, a Judge on Americas 9th Circuit.

Meanwhile ex cop and Private Investigator, Derek Abernathy, is looking into the disappearance two journalist, one of who has turned up dead.

Inevitably the two cross paths as they discover the death of a foreign student links both their cases.

By forcing the Police Officer investigating the students death to help them, and whilst dodging old colleagues from the CIA Ellwyn and Abernathy investigate the links and follow the ever increasing amount of leads, trying to sort the truth from the deliberately scattered red herrings.

But by who, and why, are they being stone walled and misdirected.

A short but cracking read, ideal for crime fiction lovers who want a book to stick in the pool bag or flight bag for this years summer holiday.

Pages: 286. Audio length: 6.43. Publisher: Indies United Publishing House. Available from 6th May 2022

The Lighthouse Girls. B.R Spangler

Detective Casey White is called when the body of a girl is found close to a lighthouse on the outer banks.

A family report their daughter missing from a nearby town.

When Casey goes to give the unfortunate family the bad news she’s in for a shock. It is their daughter thats dead, but it’s not the one they reported missing.

And that opens the door to one of the most original plots I’ve read for quite a while.

I read a lot of crime fiction so it’s not often I come across a story that lets me sit back and think, “I’ve not come across that before”

Casey and her team are brilliant. The ongoing stories and recurring characters that sit of the peripheries are great, but what really steals the show in these books is the setting.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is fascinating. I’ve spent hours on Google Earth looking at the area.

One of the pleasures in reading is that the book can take you to places you’ve never heard of. Now I’ve found one I really want to visit.

A massive area of linked islands forming a false coast on the Atlantic Coast of America. Some island inhabited, some deserted, some overgrown wildernesses. Small towns, on the mainland side of the lagoon that’s formed by the islands, with the usual mix of rich, poor and eccentric characters.

For U.K. readers this is a bit like Midsummer, on the coast, and on steroids.

White is a brilliant character, she’s made enemies, and friends. The small town attitude means that whenever anything goes wrong the newcomer gets the blame. But things have got as bad as they’re going to get and the town is now on the rebound. It’s making its way back.

Will Casey get the credit and recognition she deserves, I doubt it.

Will she solve the riddle that is the two sisters, one dead, the other missing.

The key to it is embedded in the small town community, this small town just happens to be fragmented over a few islands and inlets.

A great story, a great series. I can’t wait till we find out what happens next on the Outer Banks.

Publisher: Bookouture. Print Length: 283 pages. Audio book: 8hrs 25 minutes. Available now

The Fossil Beach Murders. Rachel McClean

DCI Lesley Clarke is back for her 6th outing in the Dorset Crime Series.

An earth slip on the coast near Lyme Regis uncovers two bodies. They could have been there for days, weeks, years, even centuries. When the forensic teams start the examination it reveals they’ve been there about ten years, and that they were murdered.

What starts off as a routine investigation, into what appears to be a decade old crime, quickly starts to have ramifications today.

There has been a story winding through this series. The story of a Police Officers suicide, that Clarke is becoming convinced was anything but a suicide. The story of a local businessman who is anything but the straight and narrow pillar of the community they like to portray.

The exposure of the bodies during the landslide leads to an investigation that starts to bring the story to a head.

It’s a tense, unputdownable story. Clarke is carrying out the investigation in the shadow of veiled threats from her boss, and a possible parallel investigation into the suicide of her predecessor by a journalist.

Why is her boss being so cagey.

Political issues start to raise their head as a neighbouring force refuses to release information on the current case unless they are involved.

Why won’t they share their information with Dorset MIT

This is a six-out-of-five story. Utterly compelling and a must read for any crime fiction fan

Rachel McClean came in my radar last year and is now firmly one of my favourite authors

When I read a book I keep notes for my reviews, just a list of characters and a simple outline of the plot. It helps me with these reviews, and lets me go back and remember stories later on in a series.

It is a testament to this story that I wrote the title at the top of the page, then got so engrossed that I forgot to write another word.

Print length: 338 pages. Published by: Ackroyd Publishing. Available now. Search Dorset Crime on Amazon for the series and offer prices.

Death in Summer. Lina Areklew

I like Scandinavian Noir, in fact I’ve started to hunt down new authors, that is how I found this book, and it was worth hunting for.

Fredrik lost his family on the MV Estonia sinking. Him and his brother made it on to a life boat but his parents perished on board.

His brother went missing off the lifeboat and was never seen again. Except Fredrik is convinced he’s alive. He’s seen him several times.

This time he sees him he’s more than convinced it’s him.

Tracking him to a hotel, but losing him again. Fredrik follows a man he saw his brother meet to a remote island. The next day the man is dead.

Sofia Hortencia is a Police Detective who works on the mainland but lives on that remote island. She’s part of the investigation. She also knows one of the main witnesses, suspects, Fredrik. They were in Criminology classes together, and had developed a relationship.

All of that in the first fifty or so pages.

From there the story unfolds. An unthinkable series of murders. An unlikely connection. What is happening and just how long has it been happening for. How many victims have there been, and who is likely to be next.

This is a cracking story with a strangely plausible plot. The twists and turns flow throughout and surprises are always just around the corner, right up till the last page.

Pages: 375. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing Date: 5th May 2022

Death In Kabul. A. Belsham & N. Higgins

The star of the book is its hotch-potch collection of characters that could only be put together in somewhere such as Kabul, a City suffering corruption following years of war and internal conflict.

Mac, the disgraced British Police Officer and his colleague Ginger, a former Para both now working for a private company training local Police Officers.

Major Jananga, an uncorrupted Police Officer who wants to stick to the rules, but those rules include torture and killing.

Baz Khan, and American journalist who is trying to expose a gang smuggling artefacts out of Afghanistan.

When a British soldier is murdered Jananga enlists Mac to help with is investigation.

Meanwhile Baz Khan is on the tail of the smugglers but doesn’t realise how much danger her journalistic enquiries are putting her in.

Gradually both investigations start to point towards a drinking den. The Lucky Star is a drinking den, gambling den, and brothel that could only exist so openly in a city like Kabul.

What a story. It would be wrong to say Kabul is portrayed as lawless, but it is portrayed as being under the Laws of whoever wants to make them up at the time.

There are moralistic angles incorporated into the plot that adds a different twist to a crime mystery set in Europe or America can realistically offer.

It’s also another of those books that had me hitting Google on numerous occasions. I love learning new things and this book certainly gave me the opportunity to do that.

A great read and one that is firmly on my Recommended List

Publisher: Canelo Action. Print Length: 413 Pages. Available now