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

In Dark Water. Lynne McEwan

I hope this is the start of a long series.

The main character DI Shona Oliver, known as Wee Shona but never to her face, is brilliantly fierce, tenacious, loyal, and has her own ethical compass to steer by.

So when, as a volunteer Lifeboat crew member, she helps recover a body from the Solway Firth, it’s no surprise that she wants to be involved in the investigation of how the young woman ended up in the sea on the border of England and Scotland.

Because the body is landed in England it shouldn’t have anything to do with her team, CID in Dumfriesshire, but they soon get involved in a cross border investigation.

Her boss has promotion ambitions, his wife has political ambitions, and he is leading a high profile, Scotland wide, drugs bust. The last thing he needs is Wee Shona and her small team mucking it, and his potential promotion, up. But is there more to it than just his professional integrity.

Another body.

Shona doing her best dog-with-a-bone act.

The boss getting fractious.

Something has to give

This is a great story to start what promises to be a great series. Shona is a strong character, and she needs to be. Her previous life as a DI in The City of London Police, gives her far more experience than most.

Her childhood in the roughest part of Glasgow, with a drug addict mother, gives her a hard edge.

Her family adjusting to moving from London to the Scottish Borders, and bringing their own secrets with them.

Her small but efficient team, with their own personalities and egos, needs managing.

All of which, along with a seriously impressive crime plot, make this a fantastic book.

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 274. Publishing Date: June 24 2021

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

When The Evil Waits. M.J Lee

Ridpath is back six months after the chilling end of the last book, yes this is the latest in a series, but it can be read on its own.

Suffering PTSD, and living on his own in a Police Service flat he is looking forward to getting back to work as the Police liaison officer for Greater Manchester’s Coroner

But, his Superintendent in the MIT has a job she wants him to do, and it’s going to rub his immediate boss up the wrong way

A young boy has been found naked and murdered in the woods. DCI Turnbull is an old school, by the book, black and white kind of detective, who at first is making no leeway into the case.

Detective Superintendent Trent doesn’t like the way the investigation is going so asks Ridpath, and a small team, to look over the investigation again, and in parallel with Turnbull and the rest of the team.

Did the DI miss anything, and when he does find out about Ridpath’s secondary investigation how will he react

Meanwhile a local hack is trying to make her name and is happy to write articles for the broadsheets and the gutter press, and the police are giving her plenty of opportunity to do both, and she is becoming a thorn in everybody’s sides

The investigation into the crime in this story is really good, a young boy killed. His brother and father estranged from his mother. Witnesses doing what witnesses do, and only giving half the story. “Lucky breaks” in the investigation being prompted by hard work, and the willingness to do more than just the basics. The story flies by in a heartbeat

But what really got my heart beating was Ridpath. His thoughts, and not just in relation to the job. His suffering and the way he is dealing with loss. The adjustments he has had to make in his life, and the relationship with his daughter.

I really like this series, and I really hope I’m wrong, because the last chapter really did feel like a last chapter. Is this the end of the series. I hope not. But if it is. It’s one hell of a way to finish

Publisher: Canelo Crime. Pages: 312. Published 25th March 2021

The Bodies at Westgate Hall. Nick Louth

A love triangle.

Three people shot dead

A locked room mystrey

A suspect locked within a room within the locked room

Russian Oligarchs, and conspiracy theories

If that list is not enough to get you hooked maybe this book is not for you. It was definitely for me, what a stunning read.

DCI Craig Gillard is just getting ready for what he hopes to be a quite Christmas on call.

In the Surrey Millionaire belt, the richest of the rich, Alexander Volkov, is having a very noise, very bright, party which is annoying everybody in the neighbouring village.

When a patrol car is sent to see if they can bring an end to the noise they arrive just in time to witness the murder of three people locked in a huge library.

Two of the dead are Oligarchs and it doesn’t take long for the security forces to butt into Gillard’s investigation.

The investigation is run from Surrey Police’s putrid mobile incident room, which has been placed in the grounds of Volkov’s mansion, Westgate Hall

The locals hate the Russian, and his two children, the way they blatantly disregard the law, throwing money at any problem that arises and tearing around the countryside in their sports cars and utility vehicles.

The list of suspects range from the village council members to a Russian Government assassin. Gillard really has his work cut out.

As usual with Nick Louth’s books there are some brilliant characters. Alongside the recurring ones there are some truly brilliant ones. In particular there is Wolf, the marvellous comic Russian bodyguard learning English by watching Only Fools and Horses.

This book, just like the rest of the series, had me from the beginning. I started it on a Snowy Saturday morning and sat and read it all day. It really was a read from start to finish in one go.

I loved it, for the story, the characters, and the setting. Brilliant

Pages: 288. Publisher: Canelo Crime. Publishing date: 25th February 2021