20/20. Carl Goodman

DI Eva Harris is one hell of a character. 27 years old, a cybercrime specialist who is on rotation to get experience, but she already has a great back story.

Eva is special, in many ways, and if you can get past the fact she is a DI at such a young age you will love this book. Especially if you are a fan of the TV series Line of Duty.

There are multiple strands to this story. One of them is the fact that it’s not a coincidence that Eva is doing a rotation through the Surrey serious crime team. She’s been laced there to find a leak, a bent cop who is feeding organised crime syndicates information on ongoing investigations.

But that is one of the smaller storylines, the main one is the hunt for a murderer.

In the depths of Surrey there is a gated estate where the rich shy away from the public. The estate is the realm of successful business people, footballers, and increasingly rich foreigners.

When the first murder happens on the estate Eva is sent to investigate. A woman tied naked to a chair, her blood drained, her eyes removed with surgical skill.

Evas investigation will lead her to some strange places that may are the domain of the rich and bored. She encounters some tremendous characters.

Along the way the different strands of the story occasionally cross, but never confuse. There is a constant pace that makes the book hard to put down, and then there are the last few chapters.

No spoilers but they are brilliant.

I have to say that Carl Goodman has created one of the best new characters I’ve read for a long time. With her young age, and her tenacity, I can only hope that this is the first in a long series.

At the moment it looks like this book is initially only going to be available as an ebook and audio book, published on the 16th June. I really hope it gets a print run. If it doesn’t, and you haven’t got an ebook reader, it would be worth buying one just to read 20/20

Publisher: Hera. Publishing Date: 16th June 2021

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

Bonds of Blood. Rob Sinclair

DI Dani Carter book #4, and they just keep getting better

Two people, a husband and wife, the husband is dreaming about another woman, when he wakes he is being viciously attacked, his dead wife lying next to him. Quickly they’re both dead.

The start of an investigation for Carter and her team, and what a route it’s going to take them on.

The dead man Terry Eccles is a property developer. Him, and his partners are hugely successful and on the surface all seem perfect.

But as the investigation begins the team start to find out what the family dynamics are really like.

Dani is also involved in the investigation of a second case. A slam dunk murder following a fatal RTC.

With this distracting her will she manage to stay focused on the murder of the Eccles family .

Then, of course, their’s her personal life. Things couldn’t really be more stressful

Rob Sinclair is a skilful writer who has chosen Birmingham to set this crime series. Clever, every book is set in just the right district. In this case the story revolves around the more wealthy areas of Sutton Coldfield and Little Aston.

Is not just the setting that’s right, the characters are spot on for the story. The almost incestuous relationship between the business partners and their families. The privileged offspring of successful businesses men, and it’s all so believable.

A great addition to a great series

Publisher: Canelo. Pages: 296. Publication date: 20 May 2021

Code of Silence. Phillip Jordan

When the troubles ended the violence didn’t

Whilst the paramilitary leaders turned politicians the foot soldiers found others to support

Gangs rule the streets running drugs, trafficking vulnerable women, and girls, they need muscle, and the old paramilitary muscle needs work

The younger generation, raised in an ambient atmosphere of violence, see punishment beatings, kneecapping, and murder, as nothing more than away of dealing out Justice.

So when DI Ronnie Taylor tried to take one of the highest ranking Gang Bosses of the streets, but was let down by the justice System, he thinks he’s made of Teflon and carries on bringing drugs into the country. Using his old paramilitary muscle as enforcers, and encouraging the new generation to distribute with menace.

But Ronnie is adamant she had her man bang-to-rights. The bosses agree but tell her he’s off limits for a while, because he’s quite the celebrity philanthropist, and not getting him convicted has led to bad press.

So when an apparent gang war starts up on the Belfast streets, and his name becomes linked, she has to tread very carefully.

As the investigation continues Ronnie starts to realise that there is something wrong, this isn’t gang on gang, this isn’t a war over drugs, or prostitution. This is somebody chipping away at everybody, this is somebody who either wants to start a huge turf war, in a very volatile environment, or somebody who is out to destroy the gangs and inflict pain on the leaders.

This is a cracker of a book. Set in Northern Ireland on the streets of Belfast. The only city in the U.K. where this story could have been set and still been realistic.

The troubles only ended, if they have really ever completely ended, a few years ago. There are generations brought up on violence, there is a younger generation who are still very much influenced by the stories of the recent past.

Mix that with the drug culture, and people trafficked into slave labour and prostitution, that is found in most big Cities, and you have one hell of a good backdrop to a story.

Then add Phillip Jordan’s story telling and you end up with a brilliantly book.

One of my favourite authors is the American Crime Thriller writer Greg Iles, I liken him to John Grisham without filters.

Phillip Jordan is the U.K. version of Iles. No punches are pulled. The gritty bits are very gritty, but it’s not gratuitous, it’s only ever in context.

Where the story needs violence it’s there, where the story needs to insinuate fear it does, and it all makes the 600 plus pages absolutely fly by.

After the epilogue, in the authors notes, there is a a paragraph made me grin from ear to ear. A paraphrase of what it said is, if you enjoyed the book you’ll be pleased to know that Veronica Taylor will return in The Crossed Keys and No Going Back.

Yes! At least 2 more in the series and I’ll be right at the front of the queue when they are published.

And I’ve found out there is a novella staring Ronnie, Behind Closed Doors, which is my next read.

I love it when I discover a new author. I love it even more when that new author excites me as much as this one did, and that’s only ever happened two or three times.

Pages: 624. Publisher: Five Four Publishing Available now

Little Boy Lost. Ruhi Choudhary

Detective Mackenzie (Mack) Price is back for her third outing.

Just like the second book this one starts where the previous one finished, and yes that means that you really need to have read the previous books to get the most out of this one.

The continuing story of Mack’s childhood and her relationships with her mother, father, and step father plays a huge part in each book.

The standalone part of this story begins when three young boys go missing on a school field trip, when one turns up dead the similarities to a series of murders which happened 8 years previously are hard to ignore. Those crimes were investigated by Macks partner, Nick, and he is convinced he had the right man.

From his prison cell, lifer Jeremiah Wozniak taunts the investigation team. The kidnapper of the boys leaves a note with the dead boy saying “Find Jonnys killer or they all die”

Jonny was a victim of Wozniak, but he was only convicted of the killing when the death was tagged onto his crimes after he was caught, when the body was found bearing his trade mark kill signatures.

Could Nick have wrongly attributed this boys death to Wozniak, and if he’s innocent of this killing, was he innocent of all of them.

The lives of the other two boys hang in the balance, as does Nicks reputation as an investigator, as does the reputation of an already beleaguered Police Department.

Meanwhile new Detective Austin Kennedy is looking into Macks Fathers death, which is putting her under huge psychological pressure.

A great story in a great series, but to get absolutely top marks for me a book needs to be able to be read as a standalone, even if it is in a series.

I feel that I would have been confused by some of this book had I not read the previous two. However I would recommend reading the series as a great read.

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 365. Publishing date: 6th May 2021

DI Zoe Finch Series. Rachel McLean

This blog isn’t about a single book in a series, but about the series itself.

It’s been a long time since I found a series, with so many books already published, that I hadn’t already read. The first 5 books are available with at least one other about to be released later in 2021.

I read the first two, Deadly Wishes and Deadly Choices, over a weekend and reviewed them in my last blog, since then I’ve downloaded the other three: Deadly Desires, Deadly Terror and Deadly Reprisal, and read them one after the other.

So why has this series got me hooked?

The locations of the crimes, the area that the stories are set in is very familiar to me, around Central and Western Birmingham, areas I worked in for years.

The realism of the policing. The fact that Rachel McLean has identified how the West Midlands Police works, the fact that the Major Investigation Team are based, as they are in real life, in Rose Road Police Station in Harborne.

The main character DI Zoe Finch his a highly strung single mother of a teenage boy. The boys father is a fellow Police Officer who Zoe did not know was a married, family man, when she was having a relationship with him, the difficulties this now brings as the son navigates relationships with his mom and father, and his fathers family.

Finch ishighly strung and at times difficult to get on with, but as a character in a book she is so easy to empathise with, and like. She is great at spotting the hidden detail and second to none at spotting inconsistencies in paper trails, documents, statements, and anything that is in print.

Her team is well balanced, and a great mixture of characters all of which fit nicely into the stories.

But what has me hooked more than anything else is the running theme of the series. There is at least one Police Officer who is bent, and is linked to a local crime boss, and Zoe has her suspicions that it’s not just one officer, in fact she has a Senior Officer in her sights.

It quickly become apparent that some officers are also under investigation by the Professional Standards department, and as the series progresses they, and Zoe get tantalising close to exposing the cop at the top of the pile of corruption.

McLean has come up with a great way of showing how the bent officers are paid without raising suspicion or leaving a trail. The stories in the books are interwoven so that each one is a great story on its own, but they also chisel away at the main running theme, of not only catching the Crime Boss, but also taking down the Corrupt Police Boss, or bosses.

To say this set of stories would make a great crime series would be underselling it. These books are really good.

My only gripe would be that if I had read them out of sequence, I would never have got the impact that I have by reading them in the right order. They could but the reader would be frustrated by the references to things which happen in previous books.

As a series this is definitely a five star plus, but because the continuing story is so important each individual book would be a four star read, even though the main central story for each book would deserve more.

Publisher: Ackroyd Publishing Books 1-5 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

Be Mine Forever. D.K Hood

Be Mine Forever by D.K Hood is the eleventh book in the Detectives Kane and Alton books.

A confession from the start of this blog. I’ve been on board with this series from very early on and have read all of the books in order. It’s not necessary to read all of them but I would suggest you read the first one or two before you read Be Mine Forever, as there is quite a back story involving the main characters that you might find a bit left out of if you dive straight into this one as your first.

And why would you want to miss out on the excellent earlier stories?

In this story the tightly knit team of law enforcers of Black Rock Falls are enjoying a cookout at Detective Jenna Altons house when a call comes in from a concerned father. His Cheerleader daughter has gone missing, along with her highly conspicuous car.

When the car is found, and there’s no sign of the missing girl the detectives start to worry that this is more than a father overreacting to his daughter staying out overnight

When it become obvious to Alton that not all is well at the girls home, the team begin to look at the familky demographics and the father doesn’t come out of it very well.

When a second Cheerleader goes missing the detectives start to realise that somebody wants to keep them quiet, but what about?

Then disaster for the team as one of them encounters the killer and the race is on for the rest of the team to find them before it’s too late.

The characters and the settings in this book are great, and the introduction of a new detective brings a new outlook to the team, or is he just too good to be true?

This is a great addition to a great series, and like the rest, it’s got me aching to see what happens next.

Publisher: Bookouture. Pages: 336. Available now

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