Stay Awake. Megan Goldin

It might sound a familiar plot, woman wakes with no memory and is in the middle of a murder mystery, but it is much better than anything along similar lines that I have ever read.

To start the amnesia is not the common forgot everything type.

32 year old Liv Reece wakes up tipsy in the back of a taxi. When she gets home she finds it occupied by strangers. Catching herself in a mirror she realises she has long hair several shades darker than the short hair she thought she had.

On the back of her hand, her wrist, and up her arm are scribbles in pen.

Stay Awake, Remember to wake up, Don’t sleep, I forget everything when I sleep.

There’s also the address on a nightclub. People know her there but she doesn’t remember them.

As she starts to put things together she realises the last thing she remembered, taking a phone call at her work desk, was actually over 2 years ago.

Waking up on a park bench the next day her memory is gone again, all she remembers is everything that happened in her life up till the phone call at her desk.

A murder takes place and New York Detectives Halliday and Leville are assigned. A man with a stab to the heart and slashed feet lies naked on a bed. The words Wake Up! Written in blood on the inside of the window, backwards so the can be read correctly from the outside.

Liv sees this on the news and realises she must have had something to do with it. But why.

The story is brilliant, Liv’s fear and frustration as she tries to piece together her life, and work out if she killed somebody.

Halliday and Leville investigating a stranger murder with a suspect who appears to have fallen off the grid over two years ago.

The plot twists around will the Police Investigators find Liv, whilst Liv is going through psychological torture, and trying to stay any awake is only increasing her pain.

As both parties creep closer to the truth, and each other, it become a breathtaking ride of a story that you found myself deeply engaged by.

A great book by a new author to me.

Print Length: 353 pages. Publisher: Canelo. Publishing date U.K. 18th August 2022.

The Line. Rachel Lynch

A cracker of a book that I had no idea was the second in a series, but I’ve now downloaded the first.

The holiday island of Cyprus has series of key military establishments, including a listening station that picks up communications across the Middle East.

So when it becomes apparent that their is a leak, and that somebody is giving an arms dealing, warlord, tip offs that are allowing him to escape being killed by American Drones, an investigation is launched.

Four low ranking soldiers are placed under house arrest and a military investigator is sent to look into the leak.

When the investigator is killed, in an apparent diving accident, Major Helen Scott is sent to the island to continue his investigation, and also to look at how he died.

What follows is a story that examines temptation. The temptation of young soldiers to hit salubrious bars where drinks, drugs and possibly worst of all, prostitution, are all freely available.

The temptation of people to make a quick penny, or get a quick lay, bringing a risk to national security.

But who is responsible. Could four low ranking soldiers really have the ability to gain the information, let alone pass it on in a timely manner.

Why was the original investigator killed, and by who. What was he getting too close to.

Major Helen Scott is a great character but as much as she’s the main one, she’s almost a narrator of the plot. Other characters nearly take up as many pages, and they add to the credibility of the plot.

The setting is great, I actually wish I’d waited to read this book until I was on holiday. So good is Rachel Lynch at taking the reader to Cyprus, that I wanted to be on a beach, or by a pool.

The plot is fast paced and doesn’t let up on the action from page one.

A great story and hopefully, now I know there was a previous book, there will be many more to follow in the series.

Publisher: Canelo. Pages: 328. Publishing date. 28 July 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

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

After Everything You Did. Stephanie Sowden

Another new writer to me, but one I will definitely be looking for in the future.

A young woman, Reeta, wakes up shackled to a bed in hospital.

Two Federal Agents tell her she is the killer of at least four women, two of which are still missing.

The problem is Reeta has suffered serious injuries and has no memories pre-waking up in hospital.

The Agents want to keep her in the blind about her past, unconvinced she has no memory.

They try to deal with her to get back the two missing bodies, but she is adamant she can’t remember a thing.

Set in 1966 in America, with the lack of todays science, two Agents try to bully and cajole a confession from Reeta.

Nobody will tell Reeta who she is, she wants to know where her family are. Latching on to one news report she approaches the reporter to find out about her past life.

Carol, the reporter initially hates Reeta, but soon realises she really does have no memory, and starts to be suspect of the Federal Agents methods. Surely they should tell Reeta about her past.

Her past involves been born into a religious colt, led by the mysterious Jeb.

I was convinced I knew how this plot was going to culminate. I was wrong.

There are little red herrings all leading in one direction, but I couldn’t call it misleading, more intriguing.

The characters are brilliantly engaging, and the plot is compelling. This book had me in a bear hug from page 1 and kept me there until the last full stop.

Print length: 327 pages. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date : 7th April 2022

The Body Beneath The Willows. Nick Louth

The fourth book in the DCI Craig Gillard series, but just in case you’re put off by that, this book can easily be read as a standalone without losing any of its impact.

For crime fiction fans I’d describe Gillard as a character similar to Lewis from the Morse spin-off series. Nothing is unusual about him. He’s an honest cop, a family man who is happily married, even if he has a mad aunty who occasionally gives him hassle on the domestic front. He just gets on with the job, and that make really comfortable read.

The Publishers Gumph

On the tree-lined banks of Surrey’s River Wey, a decaying corpse is dug up by workmen in the middle of an Anglo-Saxon burial site. His modern dental fillings show that this is no Dark Age corpse…

DCI Craig Gillard is called in, but the body’s condition makes identification difficult. One man, however, seems to fit the bill: Ozzy Blanchard, a contractor employed by the same water firm doing the digging who disappeared six months ago, his crashed company car found nearby.

But then an X-ray of the corpse throws the investigation into turmoil. A shard of metal lodged in his neck turns out to be part of an Anglo-Saxon dagger unknown to archaeologists. Who wielded this mystery weapon and why? Does the answer lie in a murderous feud between two local families?

The deeper Gillard digs, the more shocking truths he will uncover.

A totally original crime mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Body Amongst the Willows is an absolute thrill-ride, perfect for fans of Michael Connelly, Ann Cleeves and Mark Billingham

What I thought

Nick Louth has created a great character in Gillard. The story clatters along at a great pace, and takes enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, without stepping into the realm of the improbable, or impossible. It’s very realistic.

There’s a clever thread running through the book that had me convinced I’d spotted who the murderer was, but no, I was wrong.

Gillard is written in such a way that you can feel his frustrations as the investigation seems to hit brick walls.

This is made even more realistic by the fact that Louth has fully embraced the way of the world today. He is the first author, that I’ve read, who has taken on the way the pandemic is affecting the country, the reduced number of Police Officers available, working from home, the mental effect of lockdown.

Nick Louth books are very much of the now, and I suspect in years to come people will read them and remember the period we’re going through. Hopefully as a distant memory.

Print Length 306 pages. Publisher Canelo Crime. Published 27th January 2022

Under A Dark Cloud. Louisa Scarr

A closed room murder with a twist.

The room is a van, on top of a multi-storey car park, in Reading, in the middle of a storm.

TV personality, and Storm Chaser, Dr Simon Sharp lies multilateral in the van full of high-spec tech. With him, alive and unharmed is Dr Finn Mason. The van is locked from the inside and Finn is refusing to come out unless his best friend is called.

His best friend just happens to be DS Robin Butler of Hampshire Police.

Butler arrives and Finn is taken from the van. But what has happened inside. The local police think they have a nailed-on case of murder with Finn as the only logical suspect.

Butler admits that is the case, but still thinks it’s out of character for his friend, until he starts to dig, and then he realises Finn is not the person he thought he knew so well.

Meanwhile Butler’s side kick DC, Freya West is tasked to help new Acting DS Josh Smith with the investigation into the death of a homeless man found in an abandoned freezer the morning after the storm.

Whilst concentrating on her own case she worries about Butler and soon finds herself helping him try to work out why Finn might have changed so much, and why he might have killed a fellow scientist in such a grisly manner.

This is the second book in the DS Butler series, and just like the first, it’s original and intriguing.

The storyline had me coming up for the occasional breath between chapters. It’s simple, yet complex.

The frustrations Butler feels when he realises he doesn’t know his friend as well as he thought he did, and in some way has let him down, is really well written into the plot.

The relationships between Butler and Finns family is stretched. The building friendship with his DC, Freya, is addictive.

The story as a whole had me not must hooked, but left me wanting more. Always a good sign.

Pages: 297. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Published on: 9th September 2021

You Can Run. Karen Cleveland

The one genre of book that I keep coming back to is the spy espionage stories.

Over the last few years good ones have become fewer are further between, in fact with the exception of people like Nelson Demille, and David Baldacci, since the demise of Tom Clancy’s original self written books, I have really struggled to find a good author in the genre.

Well that’s changed. Karen Cleveland has written a cracking thriller, which hopefully is the start of a great new series.

You can run is written in the first person from two peoples points of view.

Jill is a CIA analyst who helps to verify foreign agents credibility. The safety of her family is threatened unless she verifies a new Syrian assets, code name Falcon.

She does, but then she runs. Resigning from the Agency and creating a new identity she lives a peaceful life for 4 years.

Alex is a journalist and she receives an anonymous tip telling her that the CIA are receiving a lot of information from a Syrian asset that doesn’t exist.

Determined to publish the story she doesn’t realise she’s about to open a can of worms that will plunge Jill back into danger.

Jill responds the only way she can. She has to get to the bottom of the very issue she ran away from 4 years earlier.

From page one this story is sprinting at a great pace. That pace doesn’t let up till the penultimate chapter, then just when you think you can get your breath back, there is that final chapter.

What a hook.

Loved it

Pages: 336. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Published on: 31st August 2021

When The Guilty Cry. M.J Lee

Right up to date. Set against the political fallout of Greater Manchester Police being placed into Special Measures, a lack of Officers as we come out of the latest lock-down, and pressure on Officers, from those above, to perform beyond their time stretched capabilities, this is a cracking portrayal of today’s policing.

Ridpath is back, and he’s still working for the Coroner, but with MIT pushed to breaking point, and most of the team crunching numbers, it’s inevitable that he’s going to get drawn back to work for the Police.

When 3 severed hands are found in a backpack, in an abandoned Children’s Home Ridpath originally attends as the Coroners Officer. GMP see this as a no win situation, a cold case which appears to be unsolvable. Passing it off to Ridpath seems the ideal opportunity to get the investigation off their books.

At the same time a mother and father have applied for a Declaration of Death certificate for their daughter who has has been missing since 2009.

Last seen heading off to a Music Festival, the then 16 year old girl hasn’t been seen since. Her mother is close to death and wants closure before she dies.

The Coroner is sympathetic and decides to hold the inquest in an impossibly short time frame and tells Ridpath to investigate the circumstances of the disappearance within a week.

That is the starting point for a fast paced story that had me captivated from page one. And if you’ve ever read any of MJ Lee’s books you’ll know that you have to read to the very last sentence, this one is no exception.

The home where the back-pack was found is associated with child abuse, and the name Jimmy Saville just adds to the spin chilling presumptions of what happened their.

The hands provide a series of complex forensic issues, how old are they, can any fingerprints or DNA be recovered, whose are they? And where are the rest of the bodies they belong to.

MIT’s Senior Officer wants this case off her books, and she gives Ridpath the same time frame constraints as the Coroner, She wants it wrapped up or moved on in a week. Impossible!

I love this series. I recently read a post, on one of the book readers forums, that they were fed up with Detectives private lives intruding into Crime Novels.

I couldn’t disagree more, and Lee’s Ridpath is a prefect example of why.

Struggling to balance his work and being a single Dad, taking life advice from his young daughter, when he should be guiding her through life, and still grieving his wife’s death, he just carries on. Because that’s what people do. But the pages devoted to the relationship between him and his daughter are brilliant, and just add so much to an already great story.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. A great addition to one of the best Police Crime Series on the shelves today

Publisher: Canelo Crime Pages: 368. Publishing date 21st September 2021

The Body On The Moor. Nick Louth

Usual lead character DCI Craig Gillard takes a bit of a back seat in this book.

That’s because the story revolves more around the people that are involved in a crime from the civilian side.

A local head master is found beheaded in his car.

Who would target a man that is held in fairly high regard by most, but then we find out about the real man, and it seems there could be a few people who would be happy to see him dead.

Then there’s a Barrister who is really down on her luck, financially she is skint, her personal and professional life is stuck in a rut.

When she finds a young runaway living in her garden she finds that strangely the girl knows way too much about her life.

Dizzy, the runaway, has a terrible history, running away from home at 13, abused, by her “boyfriend” who got her addicted to drugs and then forced her into prostitution, working for one of the worst gang bosses in the country, she has escaped and is on the run in fear of her life.

So why chose Barrister Julia McGann’s garden to sleep in, and how does she know so much about her.

Gillard’s team are investigating the death of the headless headmaster, now that would have been a great title for a book. The more they dig into his life the more sleazy it looks.

The various affairs, the reluctant cuckold wife, the aggrieved students, the list of potential suspects seems endless, but the one woman they think most likely is proving impossible to identify.

This is one of those stories that had to be written from outside of the police prospective. It had to be written with Julia McGann as the main character. It is better for showing issues the police could not know about.

It’s a book about choices and the way one choice becomes the first strand of a spiders web, which when complete is a really complex structure.

That’s what this story is, a complex spiders web, and it’s brilliant.

Pages: 352 Publisher: Canelo. Available now